London 2012 Olympics: Schwazer faces the music after being expelled for use of EPO
THE 2008 Olympic race walk champion, who was expelled from the London Games for doping, broke down in tears yesterday while recounting how he hid the banned substance in the home he shares with star figure skater Carolina Kostner.
Alex Schwazer, 27, said he bought the blood booster EPO in Turkey and kept it in a box of vitamins in a refrigerator in their home.
Schwazer had hoped to replicate his feat in the 50-kilometre event in London but was banished from the games on Monday after testing positive.
Weeping, and at one point burying his face in his hands, Schwazer told a news conference in Bolzano, northern Italy, that he went to Turkey with e1,500 to buy the EPO at a pharmacy.
He recounted how he injected it daily in a bathroom at home to hide his doping from Kostner and from his parents.
“I did everything possible not to involve anyone else,” Schwazer said.
Schwazer said he caved into pressure and “the expectations that I had to dominate even more than before”.
“I couldn’t say no to this decision to do doping for the 2012 Olympics,” he said. “I made a huge error and I can only repeat, I’m sorry.”
The athlete was pressed by reporters about whether he had any involvement with Michele Ferrari, the Italian doctor who in 2002 was banned by the Italian Cycling Federation for life and who also was a consulting physician for cycling champion Lance Armstrong. Ferrari, who was also given a lifetime ban by USADA, said in a statement last week on his website he was not guilty of the charges.
Schwazer told reporters he had consulted with Ferrari “five or six times” but only for “technical advice, and that’s all,” about training. He said he had not been in touch with the physician since early 2011.
As he did during in an interview on Tuesday on Italian state TV, Schwazer insisted that he had learned how to use EPO solely by reading material on the internet. He said he began taking EPO injections the day after a 13 July anti-doping control and kept up the daily injections for three weeks, the “most difficult of my life”.
“With doping, they say you get stronger, but for me, psychologically, it was the hardest” thing to do.
Schwazer said his last injection was on 29 July.
The next day, the bell rang at his parents’ home, where he was staying.
“I knew it was the anti-doping officials,” he said. “I didn’t have the strength to tell my mother to not open to door or to say I wasn’t there.” Schwazer insisted that Kostner, his longtime girlfriend, was kept in the dark about the doping until after he got the call from London on Monday to tell him he had tested positive. He said he put the EPO in an empty box of B-12 vitamins in the refrigerator to deceive Kostner.
He said Kostner has been supportive since the positive test was announced, “not leaving me alone for a moment.”
Schwazer said he chose not to do the 20km race walk earlier in this year’s Olympics “not for the doping, but because I was bad off, mentally”.
He insisted that he was clean when he won the Beijing gold, and that this was the first time he had doped.
Like many Italian athletes, who struggle for funding, Schwazer was sponsored by one of Italy’s police forces – in this case, the paramilitary Carabinieri, which he joined when he was 18.
Schwazer said he would turn in his police badge and gun tomorrow to the Carabinieri.
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