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Report: Greece's Sampanis Tests Positive for Drugs

Weightlifter Won Bronze Medal

Associated Press
Saturday, August 21, 2004; Page D11

ATHENS, Aug. 20 -- Greek weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis, a bronze medalist at the Athens Games, tested positive for drugs in an initial sample, a source close to the case told the Associated Press.

The International Olympic Committee told Greek officials on Friday that an athlete had tested positive. Hellenic Olympic Committee officials declined to identify the athlete.

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A backup sample is being tested to determine whether the initial findings are accurate.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, identified the athlete as Sampanis, who has one of the home country's three medals in the Summer Games. He also won silver medals in the last two Olympics.

Sampanis finished third on Monday in the 137-pound category. The top four finishers are tested for doping after their performances.

IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies declined to comment.

Weightlifting has come under scrutiny again this week, with competitors disqualified for positive drug tests.

Five weightlifters were suspended on Wednesday for failing tests. Two of them learned they were disqualified as they were about to compete in their events. Another, identified by Indian Olympic officials as Sanamacha Chanu, tested positive during IOC testing.

Weightlifting's regulatory body has cracked down on doping, trying to clean up the sport's tainted image. As a result, 21 world-class weightlifters have been caught or suspended this year alone.

Greek Olympic officials got the news about Sampanis two days after national icons Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou pulled out of the Games. The sprinters missed a drug test last week, then were involved in a suspicious motorcycle crash that overshadowed the opening ceremony.

City prosecutors are looking into whether the accident was a coverup for doping violations.

Two inspectors with the National Organization of Medicines -- the Greek version of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- searched two buildings housing Christos Tsekos's food supplement company. Tsekos is the coach of the two sprinters. They were accompanied by an unidentified prosecutor.

Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said the drug agency was looking for unlicensed substances that were supposed to have been confiscated last year from Tsekos's company, following a complaint from a consumer who suffered an allergic reaction to a food supplement.

The warrant issued to the two inspectors allowed them to carry out a wide-ranging search to record any pharmaceutical substances in the Tsekos warehouse. The inspectors, accompanied by five police officers and the prosecutor, were seen taking at least one box from the premises.

Roussopoulos said the search was part of a broader investigation launched by the Greek health minister after the motorcycle accident "to find any evidence relating to doping in Greece generally."

Samaranch's Warning

Former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch said Friday that Athens had been just three months from losing the 2004 Games when he issued a warning to organizers four years ago. Before stepping down in 2001, Samaranch issued a stern warning to Athens organizers -- he called it a "yellow card" -- because of massive delays. Current IOC President Jacques Rogge was then overseeing Athens's preparations.

"After consulting with him, I decided to say publicly that we were showing a yellow card for Athens, and this yellow card was very near a red card. A red card means no possibility to organize the Games," Samaranch said in an interview at an Athens hotel.

Asked how much more delay the IOC could have tolerated before Athens was stripped of the Games, Samaranch said "maybe three months."

Samaranch credited Athens's turnaround to the efforts of organizing committee chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, and a decision by the country's two major political parties not to turn the Games into a partisan battleground.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company