IOC chief lauds Athens as Games draw to close

ATHENS, Agencies

ATHENS, Reuters The International Olympic Committee stripped a third Athens Games champion of his gold medal on Sunday but its chief praised organizers on the final day for a fantastic Games.

IOC President Jacques Rogge also vowed to step up the fight against doping and said 22 cheats were caught at Athens as a result of tougher testing.

Men’s hammer champion Adrian Annus of Hungary was stripped of his medal after failing to take a second drugs test demanded by the IOC.

Annus won his event a week ago, providing a negative dope test, and has since returned to Hungary.

But the IOC called for another test after suspicions were raised he may have used a contraption to dupe testers. Annus’s compatriot Robert Fazekas was stripped of his discus gold medal for refusing to provide a complete urine sample following last Monday’s final. Testers suspected him of trying to submit somebody else’s urine.

Russian shot putter Irina Korzhanenko also lost her gold after testing positive for a banned steroid. But Rogge said doping scandals should not detract from the superb work of the Games’ organizers. “They really did a fantastic job. I am very, very happy about the Games,” he told a news conference.

The athletes’ village was the best ever, security at the first Games since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States was flawless, television ratings were up and sports federations were delighted with the organization, Rogge said. Rogge’s review was another boost for organizers who had to fight widespread international concern before the Games about security and whether venues would be ready on time. (Related stories on pages 7 & 9)