ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek hurdler Fani Halkia told prosecutors Tuesday she had never taken drugs and that someone had sabotaged the tests which caused her to be sent home in disgrace from the Beijing Olympics.
Halkia, the surprise winner of the 400 metres hurdles at the 2004 Athens Games, tested positive for the steroid methyltrienolone, better known as M3, days before she was due to compete in August’s Games.
Prosecutors are investigating whether she and her coach George Panagiotopoulos have broken Greek law by obtaining and using the steroid. Both deny the charges.
“During the final three months (before the August Games), I was tested 17 times. No other athlete was tested so regularly,” Halkia said in a written testimony given to the court.
“I always cooperated, knowing that I had never taken banned substances.”
The 29-year-old, who has repeatedly said she has never deliberately taken performance-enhancing steroids, had the highest profile of the 19 Greek athletes who failed doping tests before this year’s Games.
“The act I am accused of was just sabotage by third parties,” Halkia said, adding the large sums of money in international athletics provided an incentive for disqualifying runners. She did not identify the third parties she was referring to.
Panagiotopoulos denied any involvement in doping.
“I don’t have anything to do with legal or illegal substances ... They are irrelevant to my profession,” Panagiotopoulos said in his written testimony.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has joined the lawsuit against Panagiotopoulos, saying it wished to target any coach who supplied athletes with drugs.
Additional reporting by Barney Spender; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Sonia Oxley