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Italy ex-Olympic champion Schwazer in new doping offence, report says

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, has again tested positive to illegal drugs, the La Gazzetta dello Sport daily reported Wednesday.

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.

According to Gazzetta, Italy‘s main sports newspaper, samples from a January 1 doping test were re-examined in May after Schwazer qualified for this year‘s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, revealing traces of performance-enhancing substances.

A lawyer for the athlete, who is from the German-speaking South Tyrol province near Austria, insisted he was innocent. "These are false and monstrous accusations," Gerhard Brandstaetter was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency.

Schwazer was due to hold a press conference at 6 pm (1600 GMT) to explain himself.

News of his 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.

Schwazer had initially decided to retire from sports, but 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 Italian sports people 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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