-- On the day the world track federation (IAAF) opened an investigation into alleged drug violations by two Greek sprinters and their coach, IAAF's doping commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist said the organization had long been unhappy with Greece's approach to anti-doping rules.
"We have been aware for a long time that there is a problem in Greece and Greek athletics," Ljungqvist said. "We have to make a full investigation. That's all I can say. There is no limit. There is lots of information and various sources we will consult."
Last fall, IAAF President Lamine Diack took the unusual step of requesting an emergency meeting with Greek track and field federation officials after it was revealed that Greek athletes were responsible for nine of the 14 no-shows for drug tests in 2003. The meeting was held in December, Ljungqvist said.
"Greek athletes were very difficult to find in our out-of-competition program," Ljungqvist said. The IAAF "informed the Greeks of our dissatisfaction with the way Greeks were unavailable. . . . That, together with earlier incidents, made us need to have an urgent meeting."
The IAAF investigation will center around sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, who have missed three mandatory drug tests since July, and their coach Christos Tzekos. All withdrew from the Summer Games just before they were supposed to appear from an International Olympic Committee anti-doping board last week. All face IAAF bans for violating the organization's policy regarding missed tests.
Drug innuendo has followed some Greeks here. Greek weightlifter Leonidis Sampanis was stripped of his bronze medal in the 137-pound class after showing elevated levels of testosterone. A number of athletes and officials raised eyebrows at the performance of Greek hurdler Fani Halkia, who won the gold in the 400 hurdles Wednesday after dropping nearly four seconds from her best time in the last year.
Ljungqvist said the IAAF will solicit information from the IOC, Greek investigators and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. He also said the federation has long had information possibly connecting some Greek athletes to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) scandal.
Fraud inspectors with Greece's Finance Ministry searched the offices of Tzekos for six hours Monday, seizing documents and computers from his food supplements company in Athens. Last week, inspectors from Greece's National Organization of Medicines raided the offices and a warehouse, and confiscated some items that they said contained small amounts of anabolic steroids.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday that BALCO documents and e-mails suggest that some Greek athletes were receiving banned drugs as long as two years ago, and that a Greek coach had formed an independent relationship with Illinois supplement manufacturer Patrick Arnold, who is considered the father of androstenedione in the United States.
The newspaper cited documents and e-mails obtained by federal investigators, most of which either did not specifically name names or had the names redacted.
The Chronicle reported that it had conflicting information from sources about whether Kenteris and Thanou were mentioned in the e-mails.
"It's our duty to find out all of the facts," Ljungqvist said.
In one e-mail exchange, BALCO owner Victor Conte warns Greek athletes that Olympic drug testers have discovered "the clear," a reference to the undectable steroids at the center of the BALCO scandal. Conte indicates he distributed the substance to athletes after getting it from Arnold, whom he refers to as "the clearman."
Arnold has repeatedly declined to comment on the BALCO case. He told The Post two years ago that he might at one time have made norbolethone, one of the designer steroids at the center of the BALCO scandal, but denied a connection to athletes.
"The reason that the Greek track coach must know is that if one of his athletes has a problem with testing, then the testers will try to trace it back to the source," Conte wrote on Aug. 21, 2002, in an e-mail. "I ask [sic] the clearman whether or not he had informed the Greek about the problem and he said no, because he did not know how to contact them. Any idea how to inform the Greek coach to stop using the clear . . . ?"
In another e-mail on Aug. 24, the Chronicle reported, Conte said his name shouldn't be mentioned to the Greek coach.
"Just say a little birdie told you about Patrick Arnold being under investigation by the IOC testers and that he should contact Patrick immediately," Conte wrote. " . . . If he continues and has an athlete get a positive test, then it will be traced back to Patrick and this would not be good."