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1ST LEAD Italy ex-Olympic champion Schwazer rejects new doping accusations By Alvise Armellini, dpa

Europe
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Rome (dpa) - Alex Schwazer, an Italian ex-Olympic race walking champion who returned to athletics after being disqualified for doping, professed his innocence Wednesday after testing positive for illegal drugs again.

Schwazer, who won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics but was banned for three years and nine months ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, is suspected of having taken steroids while training to restart his career.

La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper said samples from a doping test Schwazer took on January 1 were re-examined in May after he qualified for this year‘s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, revealing traces of performance-enhancing substances.

"Somebody does not want me to go to the Olympics," Schwazer said at a press conference, evoking a conspiracy against him. "Just like four years ago I‘m here showing my face, but this time there will be no apology because I did not make any mistake."

Speaking alongside the 31-year-old athlete, who is from the German-speaking South Tyrol province near Austria, lawywer Gerhard Brandstaetter said his client would report the matter to criminal prosecutors.

"This is a strange story: a sample tests negative in January and in May, after he wins in Rome, it tests positive with [performance enhancing] substances which have nothing to do with resistance sports," Brandstaetter said.

News of Schwazer‘s alleged relapse into cheating broke on the day Italian President Sergio Mattarella was giving an audience to Italian Olympic athletes and sports executives.

"I am shocked, we are trying to understand," the head of the Italian Athletics Federation, Alfio Giomi, said before the event in Rome.

After being caught doping in 2012, Schwazer said his career was over, but then changed his mind. Eight days after finishing serving his ban on April 30, he won the 50-kilometre race in the Rome World Championships, making him eligible to compete in Rio.

At the time, several fellow Italian Olympic athletes criticized Schwazer‘s return, saying he should have been excluded for life, while the head of the Italian Olympics Committee, Giovanni Malago, hailed his new success as a "great story" of redemption.

Schwazer‘s ex-girlfriend Carolina Kostner, a former figure skating world champion, was also implicated in the 2012 scandal. She was given a 21-month ban for helping him elude tests, a sanction that lapsed on January 1.

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