What would be considered taboo in Greece

Shadows over Olympia

The news caused a world to collapse for the Greeks. Doping rumors about Kenteris, who was traded as the favorite for lighting the Olympic flame, and Thanou had long ranged - not only in Greece. The Greek press treated the subject almost like a taboo. But the mysterious behavior of the two sprinters gave and continues to give rise to speculation: as a rule, doping control officers cannot find them, and they often do not take part in lucrative sports festivals.

In the run-up to the Summer Olympics, Kenteris, the 200-meter Olympic champion from Sydney, and his training partner Tanou, the European 100-meter champion, again made negative headlines by not showing up at a routine doping appointment. The two did not appear at a hearing before the IOC's disciplinary committee. The case became even more mysterious when it became known that the two sprinter stars were allegedly involved in a motorcycle accident - although the Athens police were unaware of the accident.

Doping refugees blocked

The athletes, who were not seriously injured but were in a hospital for observation, had already missed a doping test last year, but have not yet tested positive. The fast duo and their trainer Christos Tzekos were already involved in a sensational "doping escape" in 1997. At that time, the World Athletics Federation (IAAF) only punished the offense with a warning.

The National Olympic Committee of Greece banned the two from athletics competitions. "I welcome this decision by the Greek NOK, because the participation of these two athletes would have put a strain on the games. They have been suspected of doping even in their own country for years," said Clemens Prokop, Vice President of the National Olympic Committee (NOK) for Germany and President of the German Athletics Association (DLV).

The refusal of a doping control is equated with a positive test result according to paragraph 2.3 of the world anti-doping code valid since January 1st, 2004. There is a threat of a ban of at least three months and a maximum of two years. The news shook the Greeks' view of the world. The newspaper "Ethnos" even found: "A bomb with many megatons of explosives detonated on the foundation of Olympia." The number of doping affairs even before the games began was remarkable. For the officials of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Montreal, the cases are proof that everything is going according to plan.

Insecurity creates respect

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Athens' drug inspectors carried out 3500 tests during the Games. The Athens laboratory that examines the samples increases the number of its employees during the Games from 8 to 140. According to investigations in the California drug laboratory, which supplied many US athletes with the designer drug THG in 2003, WADA developed tests that can detect this substance. The same goes for the human growth hormone HGH, as well as EPO, which increases the oxygen levels in the blood.

"The athletes are being controlled more strictly than ever before, and they don't know what we're capable of, that's very good. WADA doesn't want to be too easy to assess," Ulrich Haas told DW-WORLD. The Mainz professor led a team of nine international observers who monitored the tests. "If you think you can fool us, we invite you to try."

23 athletes caught in Athens

Six weightlifters alone were excluded from the games on a single day - August 19, 2004 - in Athens after positive doping tests: Wafa Ammouri (Morocco), Victor Chislean (Moldova), Zoltan Kecskes (Hungary), Tratima Kumari Na (India), Shabaz Sule (Turkey) and Khine Nan (Myanmar).

Russian shot putter Irina Korschanenko returned her gold medal for abuse of stanozolol. Discus thrower Robert Fazekas from Hungary also caught it: he first tried to refuse the doping control in order to then exchange his urine sample for someone else's urine. More of his compatriots go into the network of doping investigators: weightlifter Zoltan Kovacs refuses to do the doping control, weightlifter Ferenc Gyurkovics finds traces of the anabolic steroid oxandrolone. The Hungarian hammer thrower Adrian Annus also tested positive.

"The difference between sport and show"

For WADA, the cases are a sign that the national Olympic committees and sports associations are now taking the doping issue seriously. In addition, the change at the top of the IOC helped her cause - in 2001 the Belgian Jacques Rogge replaced long-term president Juan Antonio Samaranch and courageously took up the fight against the swindlers.

Public disgust for doping offenders is WADA's most effective weapon, said Haas. Those of the athletes who try to manipulate quickly fall out of favor. "What is so fascinating about sport? That everyone has the chance to win," said Haas. "As soon as someone cheats, it changes everything. That's the difference between sport and show."