Greek court delays lifters hearing
Greece's weightlifting team are given more time to prepare their defence.
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2008 11:38 GMT

Greece are unlikely to send weightlfiters
to Beijing [GALLO/GETTY]
A Greek court has given 11 members of Greece's weightlifting team until next month to prepare testimonies to a prosecutor investigating their alleged use of banned substances.

The athletes appeared before prosecutor Andreas Karaflos as suspects in a preliminary stage of court proceedings before charges can be pressed.

The court granted their request for more time to prepare, and postponed the date for their testimony until May 2, court authorities said.

The weightlifters tested positive for unspecified banned substances during an out-of-competition test in Athens on March 7, and the test results were announced on April 4.

The names of the male and female athletes, 11 of the national team's 14 members, have not been published and none have publicly commented on the scandal.

National weightlifting coach Christos Iakovou, who has been suspended, insists a faulty batch of diet supplements from China was to blame for the test results.

He and the weightlifting team's coaches and doctors have been summoned to testify before Karaflos on Thursday and Friday.

They are also expected to ask for a postponement.

Faulty supplements?

The company that allegedly supplied the drugs, Shanghai-based Auspure Biotechnology, has been closed down temporarily, an official with China's State Food and Drug Administration official said Wednesday.

The official refused to give his name as is common among Chinese officials.

The state-run China Daily newspaper reported Tuesday that Auspure is not registered as a drug producer with China's SFDA.

The paper's Yan Jiangying confirmed that Auspure had sent a letter of apology to officials of the Greek team, but told the newspaper that the allegations that Auspure had accidentally included banned toxic and cancer-causing substances in the diet supplements have not been substantiated.

While Iakovou has insisted the blame lies with faulty supplements, a Greek court official said Tuesday that a former member of the Greek team, Christos Constantinidis, accused the coach of pressing him to use banned substances in 1997.

Constantinidis initially made the claims in 1997 before retracting them, and repeated them in testimony Monday before Karaflos, the official said.

The head of Greece's National Organisation for Medicines, Vassilis Kondozamanis, has said the organisation would soon release a full report on drugs seized last week at an Athens pharmacy as part of the investigation headed by Karaflos.

Beijing unlikely

The scandal threatens to prevent Greece from sending weightlifters, traditionally strong medal contenders, to Beijing.

Sports minister Yiannis Ioannidis said last week it was "not likely'' Greek weightlifters would compete in the Beijing Olympics, but that the International Weightlifting Federation would make the final decision.

Iakovou, 60, is one of Greece's most successful coaches with his athletes winning five Olympic gold medals, along with five silver and two bronze, since the 1992 Barcelona Games.

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