The athletics ruling body said it was not satisfied with explanations given by the pair and their coach, Christos Tzerkos, about why three doping tests were missed in the lead up to the Athens Olympic Games in August.

Kenteris and Thanou failed to turn up for scheduled tests in Chicago and Tel Aviv shortly before the 2004 Games.

Then, in dramatic circumstances involving a motor cycle accident that is now thought to have been faked, they missed a third doping test in Athens on August 12, the eve of the Olympics opening ceremony.

“In each case, the IAAF has concluded that the explanation provided is unacceptable in response to the charges made,” a statement from the world athletics organisation read.

“Accordingly, the IAAF has notified the Greek Federation (SEGAS) that both athletes and their coach are provisionally suspended pending the resolution of their cases.”

The two stars of Greek athletics rose to prominence at the Sydney Olympic Games four years ago, when Kenteris took gold in the men’s 200m and Thanou won silver in the women’s 100m.

However, they have since been under a cloud and will now face a tribunal in Greece to examine their absences from drugs tests.

“A hearing for each individual will now be convened before the relevant disciplinary tribunal of the Greek Federation to determine whether doping violations have been committed,” the IAAF document stated.

A lawyer acting for Kenteris and Thanou lashed out at the IAAF’s decision.

“The IAAF have got it wrong, we haven’t flouted any procedure, and we’ll prove that in front of the Greek athletic federation’s disciplinary committee which will be meeting soon,” Michaelis Dimitrakopoulos said.

Their coach also insisted that neither he nor the two sprinters had anything to hide.

In addition, Greek prosecutors have laid separate charges against Kenteris and Thanou for allegedly staging a fake motorbike crash which saw them spend four days in hospital and avoid questioning from the IAAF in August.

Medical staff have also been charged with writing false reports.

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