Athletics

WADA slams 'reckless' Italian judge as ex-Olympic walking champion Schwazer cleared of doping

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Alex Schwazer. (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
Alex Schwazer. (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

Ex-Olympic champion walker Alex Schwazer, suspended for eight years for doping, was on Thursday cleared of criminal proceedings by an Italian judge who considered that his samples could have been altered.

Investigating Judge Walter Pelino in the northern town of Bolzano ruled for a dismissal of the case against the 2008 Olympic 50km walking champion "for not having committed the facts," AGI news agency reported.

Pelino wrote he believed "with a high degree of credibility that the urine samples taken from Alex Schwazer on January 1, 2016 had been altered to obtain a positive result [in order to] obtain the disqualification and discredit the athlete."

Later Thursday, WADA condemned the comments and threatened legal action.

"WADA is appalled by the multiple reckless and groundless allegations made by the judge against the organisation and other parties to the case," the Montreal-based body said in a statement on Twitter.

Schwazer, 36, was suspended for eight years just before the 2016 Olympics, for testing positive for anabolic steroids, but has claimed he was the victim of foul play.

The samples taken on 1 January 2016 had initially given negative results but a new analysis, the following May, revealed traces of doping products.

"We have never stopped fighting and this hard battle is rewarded, it makes me happy," Schwazer, 36, told AGI.

"I now feel lighter, finally it is written in black and white that I am innocent."

Schwazer had previously served a three-and-a-half year ban for testing positive for the blood booster erythropoietin (EPO) before the 2012 London Olympics. He had not disputed the results of that test.

Judge Pelino criticised WADA and the IAAF (now World Athletics), two bodies he said "operate in a completely self-referential manner, not tolerating external controls."

WADA rejected the judge's accusations.

"WADA was a civil party to these proceedings and was tasked with the role of assisting the court in reaching its decision," the statement read.

"During the course of the proceedings WADA provided overwhelming evidence that was corroborated by independent experts, which the judge rejected in favour of unsubstantiated theories.

"The Agency stands by all the evidence it provided and rejects the defamatory criticism in the decision in the strongest terms.

"Once the full judgement has been analysed, WADA will consider all options available, including what legal actions it may initiate."

Schwazer has continued to train in the hope of competing in the Tokyo Olympics, stating: "I would like to end my career as I want, not as others wanted."

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