Small amounts of anabolic steroids were found in a warehouse used by the coach of two Greek sprinters at the center of a doping scandal, government officials said Monday.
The search of coach Christos Tsekos's facilities last week was part of an investigation into whether 2000 Olympic medalists Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou tried to avoid a doping test on the eve of the Athens Games.
A prosecutor and two government inspectors confiscated 641 boxes of food supplements and found that more than 1,000 of the supplements listed ephedrine as the main ingredient.
Also found was a small batch of medicine with steroids that came from the United States, Bulgaria and Germany, according to the National Organization of Medicines, Greece's equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It didn't say what kind of steroids they were.
Ephedrine is used in weight-reducing formulas and other medicines, and a version of the drug was linked to the death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler. Some athletes take it to get a short-term energy burst and to increase alertness, but it is on the list of banned substances for Olympic competitors.
Tsekos's attorney, Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, said the supplements in the warehouse were legal.
"There is nothing illegal and nothing prohibited in the containers that Mr. Tsekos's company imports," he said.
"An investigation is ongoing from the responsible ministries and the judicial probe is ongoing; the findings from the judicial probe are going to the prosecutor. The next steps will be decided by the government and the government will announce them at the appropriate time," government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said.
Kenteris, the 200-meter gold medalist at the Sydney Games, and Thanou, who took the silver in the 100 meters, could not be found at the Olympic Village for an Aug. 12 drug test. Hours later, they were in a suspicious motorcycle accident that kept them hospitalized for four days.
The athletes denied taking banned substances, and said the accident happened because they were rushing back to the Olympic Village to be tested. The sprinters later withdrew from the Olympics, and Kenteris cut ties with Tsekos.
A prosecutor started an investigation Monday into claims that weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis, stripped of his bronze medal for doping, could have been slipped a banned substance without his knowledge.
Prosecutor Grigoris Peponis opened the investigation a day after Sampanis became the first athlete of the Athens Games to be stripped of a medal for a doping offense. He lost his bronze medal in the 137-pound (62kg) category when a drug test showed he had an abnormally high level of testosterone.
Sampanis, who won silver medals in 1996 and 2000, has denied wrongdoing. But Christos Iakovou, coach of the Greek weightlifting team, said the testosterone could have been given to Sampanis without his knowledge.
"I want to thank all the people who are with me and have given me courage," Sampanis said as he left his house in Athens.
"The case has been taken over by my lawyer, a prosecutor and the federation and I hope that all together we will be vindicated. I am telling you I am innocent," he said. "When this is over then I will be okay. I am innocent."
The government has said it will push for a full investigation into any allegation that Greek athletes may have taken banned substances, and that it would strip offenders of any privilege given to them by the state.
Olympic medalists are regularly given jobs in the military or security services.
"The specific athlete will be given the chance . . . to have recourse to the proper authorities and be vindicated since he claims -- as we have all seen -- that he is innocent," Roussopoulos, the government spokesman, said of Sampanis.