Former Greek Olympic champion could face prison

Fani Halkia, a former 400m hurdles Olympic champion in Athens who faces charges of violating Greek doping laws during the Beijing Olympics, could spend up to 5 years in jail if found guilty. Two other athletes and a coach are involved in the case.


Greece's former 400m hurdles Olympic champion Fani Halkia, her coach and two more athletes were charged by a prosecutor Friday with doping violations prior to and during last summer's Beijing Olympics.

Halkia, 400m runner Dimitris Regas and 200m sprinter Tassos Gousis face a maximum sentence of five years in prison after testing positive for the banned steroid Methyltrienolone.

Coach George Panagiotopoulos, who trained Halkia and Regas, was charged as a doping violation instigator. He also faces a maximum five-year sentence.

A gold medalist in the Athens 2004 Olympics, Halkia was formally expelled during the Beijing Games after testing positive for the banned steroid.

The same drug had previously been found in the samples of over a dozen Greek athletes in other disciplines, severely embarrassing Greek authorities in the run-up to Beijing 2008.

Olympic officials had been on the lookout for cheats from Greece ever since Methyltrienolone turned up in the results of 11 Greek weightlifters in April.

Top Greek swimmer Yiannis Drymonakos later also fell afoul of the drug which experts describe as a dangerous anabolic steroid.

The International Olympic Committee has a keen interest in the case, hiring legal representation in Greece and suing Halkia's coach for causing damage to its reputation.

The four suspects deny any wrongdoing and Halkia claims she was sabotaged.

A month after the Beijing Olympics, Greek authorities adopted tougher anti-doping laws that had been prepared months previously but were put on hold until after the Games.

Doping is now a crime under Greek law, but the suspects will be tried under the previous statutes which labelled it a misdemeanour.

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