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World Sport

Greek despair at failed drugs test

• Olympics 2004: Special report 

ATHENS, Greece -- Host country Greece looks set to lose their first medal at the Olympics after bronze-winning weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis failed a drugs test.

In yet more doping agony for Greece after the withdrawal of their top two sprinters, Sampanis' coach confirmed the lightweight had tested positive for excessive levels of testosterone.

"I am stunned. I am going mad. We do not, and I stress this, do not give our athletes testosterone," said coach Christos Lakovou.

Sampanis won the bronze medal, Greece's first in Athens, in the 62kg category on Monday in front of a delirious home crowd.

A Greek government source said that drug cheats could be stripped of the military ranks given to many athletes. Sampanis is an air force officer.

"All past tests were negative, even five days before the Games, the tests were negative," Lakovou said.

"I don't know what has happened. I have been doing this work for so many years and I watch over my athletes constantly."

Coming after eight other failed tests in weightlifting -- a sport threatened with exclusion from the Olympics over its drugs record -- it was another big blow to Greek pride.

Olympic 200 meters champion Costas Kenteris and his training partner, 100 meters silver medallist Katerina Thanou, pulled out on Wednesday; days of intrigue over their missed dope tests overshadowed the opening of Games whose otherwise impressive organisation has answered Greece's many critics.


Fans hoping to watch Greece win a second weightlifting medal on Friday reacted with shock that they could lose their first.

"I don't believe it," said Leonidas Dimitroulas, shaking his head. "It is very disappointing. "I don't believe that Leonidas would do something like that and it was our first medal.

"Usually our weightlifting team brings many medals and now we have none."

Weightlifters, as popular in Greece as footballers, were expected to provide a third of the country's projected 15 medals.

Sampanis' medal winning effort had ended days of pent up frustration for the hosts, who had obsessed over the scandal involving sprinters Kenteris and Thanou.

"We don't really believe it," said fan Despoina Chourdaki, "We think something else is going on but we don't know what."


The Greek drugs squad raided a warehouse used by the sprint pair's coach on Friday and the Greek government said they were looking for evidence Costas Tzekos had been selling controlled nutritional supplements without a licence.

Kenteris who has fallen from national hero to villain in the space of a week has cut his ties with the coach.

Police have questioned Kenteris' account of a motorcycle accident, hours after the failed tests, which put him and Thanou in hospital -- and out of reach of Olympic drug testers -- for several days.

A source said on Friday that the police report on the accident had been passed to state prosecutors.

The Greek Olympic team would not officially confirm Sampanis had failed a test but said the first sample from an unidentified athlete had been positive. A B test was yet to be done.

Sampanis won silver medals at both the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 2000 Games in Sydney.

As a resut of the failed test, Greece's Olympic team manager Yiannis Papadoyiannakis offered his resignation - but it was turned down.

"The president of the Greek Olympic Committee (Landis Nicolau) was informed of the resignation but refused to accept it so he remains in charge of the Greek Olympic team for now," said team spokesman George Gakis.

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