9 Mar 2011

Thanou appears in Greek court

8:52 am on 9 March 2011

Former Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou made a rare court appearance in her and fellow athlete Kostas Kenteris' trial for alleged false statements to authorities in a 2004 Athens Olympics doping scandal.

It is the first time either of the pair have appeared before magistrates since the trial began in January.

Kenteris wasn' present.

Thanou and Kenteris last month defied a court order to appear before the Athens misdemeanour court in connection with their claims of having been involved in a motorcycle accident in August 2004.

They were accused of staging the crash on the eve of the Games to avoid a doping test. The trial has dragged on for years due to frequent postponements.

Proceedings have already been halted once due to the absence of witnesses and a request from the accused of new witnesses.

If convicted of misdemeanour, the sprinters could face up to a five-year suspended jail sentence.

Kenteris, the 200 metres gold medallist at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and 100 metres silver medallist Thanou were acquitted of doping charges in a Greek athletics federation probe in 2005.

The International Association of Athletics Federations appealed the verdict at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

They settled out of court in 2006 and subsequently admitted only to anti-doping rule violations, essentially serving out their unofficial two-year suspensions.

The 2004 scandal, regarded as the biggest at an Olympics since Canadian Ben Johnson lost his 100 metres gold in Seoul in 1988, cast a huge cloud over the Athens Games for the Greek hosts.