Olympics notebook

Greek hurdler out for doping

Wire Services / August 19, 2008
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The International Olympic Committee formally expelled Greek hurdler Fani Halkia from the Beijing Olympics yesterday for doping and urged Greek authorities to investigate her coach for possible criminal violations.

Halkia, the 2004 Olympic 400-meter hurdles champion, tested positive for the steroid methyltrienolone at a Greek training camp in Japan Aug. 10 before arriving in Beijing. Notified of the result, she pulled out of the Games Sunday and flew home.

The IOC, which set up a disciplinary commission to investigate the case, said Halkia had been officially kicked out of the Games and had her accreditation revoked.

Under global anti-doping rules, Halkia faces a two-year ban by the International Association of Athletics Federations for a steroid offense. In addition, the IOC said it was reporting the matter to Greek authorities and requesting they investigate possible violations of Greek law, in particular by her coach, George Panagiotopoulos.

The IOC said it reserved the right to take sanctions against the coach. Panagiotopoulos is also the coach of Greek sprinter Tassos Gousis, who tested positive for the same steroid and was sent home a few days before the Olympics.

"This decision shows the determination of the IOC to broaden the fight against doping to those behind athletes," the committee said.

Halkia's backup "B" sample was tested Sunday and also came back positive for methyltrienolone, which the IOC described as a dangerous drug that "may lead to serious consequences to the health of athletes, even threatening their lives."

The IOC rejected Halkia's written defense that she had never used the steroid and suspected "acts of tampering by third parties."

Halkia was the fourth athlete to test positive during the IOC's Beijing anti-doping program. North Korean shooter Kim Jong Su was stripped of his silver and bronze medals after testing positive for a banned betablocker, Spanish cyclist Isabel Moreno was expelled after testing positive for EPO in a pre-competition check, and Vietnamese gymnast Thi Ngan Thuong Do was caught using a prohibited diuretic.

Halkia is the 15th Greek athlete who tested positive for methyltrienolone. The list includes 11 weightlifters, swimmer Yannis Drymonakos, 400-meter runner Dimitrios Regas, and Gousis.

Vaulter's pole lost

Brazilian pole vaulter Fabiana Murer says Olympic officials lost one of her poles during yesterday's final, costing her a chance to compete for a medal. "It feels like they stole these Olympics from me," Murer said in tears, after finishing in 10th place among the 12 finalists.

Murer couldn't jump higher than the 4.45-meter mark, but her personal best is 4.80, which could have given her a silver medal. Pole vaulters use several types of poles in the same event, depending on the height they are attempting to clear.

"I looked everywhere but I couldn't find it," Murer said. "I wanted the officials to stop the event so they could figure out where the pole was, but they kept saying I needed to go looking for it myself."

US boxer's father dies

Juan Estrada, the 64-year-old father of US Olympic middleweight boxer Shawn Estrada, died early Sunday in Los Angeles from heart and kidney problems. Juan Estrada had hoped to travel with his son to Beijing, but his failing health made that impossible. He was told by doctors several months ago he had very little time left but said he was fighting to stay alive so he could see his son box in the Olympics. The elder Estrada watched Shawn win his first-round bout Aug. 10 from his hospital bed . . . A day after winning an Olympic gold medal, Spain's Rafael Nadal officially unseated Roger Federer to become the world's No. 1 tennis player when the ATP rankings came out yesterday. Federer had been atop the rankings for 235 weeks, but Nadal has won six tournaments this year and heads into next week's US Open as the favorite to win his third straight major title. Nadal beat Fernando Gonzalez of Chile in straight sets Sunday to win the gold medal . . . US second baseman Jayson Nix said he hopes to return to Olympic action despite still having stitches in his head and blurred vision after fouling a ball off his left eye Friday . . . A sailing jury was hearing a new Spanish-Italian protest against the men's 49er class gold medal that was given to Denmark following a committee-room battle that delayed the awards ceremony by almost a day. The Danish team of Jonas Warrer and Martin Kirketerp Ibsen was awarded the gold yesterday, after the competition jury rejected protests from silver medalist Spain over the Danes borrowing a boat from the Croatian team when the mast on their own skiff broke just before Sunday's race.

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