ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s Olympic 50km race walk champion Alex Schwazer was excluded from the London Games on Monday after he failed a doping test.
“I made a mistake. My career is finished,” Schwazer, who took gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and is the boyfriend of world champion figure skater Carolina Kostner, told the Italian news agency Ansa.
“I wanted to be stronger for this Olympics, I made a mistake,” added the 27-year-old.
The confirmation came after the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) said they had excluded an athlete due to “an adverse result” from a test conducted by the World Anti-Doping Agency WADA.
They said the athlete had not yet arrived in London.
Schwazer became a hero in Italy four years ago after he won gold by knocking more than a minute off a 20-year-old Olympic record set by Vyacheslav Ivanenko of the former Soviet Union, despite challenging conditions.
Australian Jared Tallent was second in that race in Beijing.
Schwazer, who set an Italian record in the 20km in March, had been one of Italy’s big medal hopes in a sport where athletes move as fast as they can while keeping one foot in contact with the ground at all times.
The Olympic 50km race walk is scheduled for Aug 11.
“I trusted him, he took me for a ride. Just to think, a few months ago I put my daughter Micol in his arms for her baptism,” Schwazer’s coach Michele Didoni, himself a former race walking world champion, told Italian news agency AGI.
“It’s not right, I believe I’ll quit athletics. It’s the biggest blow of my life.”
Italians quickly took to the athlete’s Facebook page, where he has over 8,000 fans, to voice their disappointment and anger.
“It’s better to come last through your own efforts than to win with help. Shame on you!” wrote one.
Schwazer, a clean-cut figure known for appearing in an advertisement for Kinder chocolate bars, said last month he would not compete in the 20km and would concentrate on the 50 instead.
He said he had taken the decision with team coaches after suffering a bout of influenza.
Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) president Gianni Petrucci said it had been “a bitter day” for Italian athletics.
“He had great results, ruined by this terrible news, which has upset us,” Petrucci told local TV. “We ordered...the explusion of the athlete. The decision is clear: we cannot compromise, we might lose a medal but we will gain in honesty.”
Reporting By Luca Trogni in Milan, editing by Alan Baldwin