Italians rally to support an athlete acquitted in court and sanctioned by sport
Alex Schwazer (right) appearing with his coach Sandro Donati at one of their press conferences during the case. Italy’s political and sports system now demand Schwazer rehabilitated and allowed to race walk again. Photo: Screenshot from La Repubblica TV documentary.
A prophet may not be accepted in his hometown, but a converted doper can apparently get support from his entire nation. In an exceptional display of political unity, all the parties of the Italian parliament decided on 30 March 2021 to support a resolution in favour of Alex Schwazer, the Beijing 2008 Olympic Champion in 50 km race walking.
The parliamentarians in the committee for Culture, Education and Sport "commits the Government to take initiatives, within its competence and in compliance with the autonomy of the sports system, so that suitable instruments are identified to verify the conditions for the participation of Alex Schwazer in the next Olympic Games in Tokyo”.
The political statement is another highlight in a battle that has lasted almost five years when a reanalysis of a urine sample Alex Schwazer was found compatible with an intake of testosterone. As Schwazer had a previous doping ban on his cv, he was given an eight year doping ban expiring in 2024.
However, Schwazer and his new coach, the internationally renowned anti-doping expert Alessandro Donati, has fought the ban tooth and nail, as they regard the positive test as a result of manipulation in the process.
In February, a judge in the Tribunal of Bolzano came to their support and acquitted Schwazer from the doping charges which are criminal in Italy. The judge also strongly criticized especially WADA and World Athletics for “procedural fraud” and has now asked the public prosecutor to consider legal action against these international bodies.
Also the president of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), Giovanni Malagò, has expressed support for the famous race walker. In February he said he was “sincerely sorry for how much Alex Schwazer has lived through in these years, and for [those] close to him, starting with Sandro Donati.”
And in mid-March, he stated that Schwazer was innocent, saying that ordinary justice and sports justice do not necessarily coincide.
“In this case, [the Court of Arbitration for Sport] judges always have the possibility to revisit what has been the path, and I hope they will.”
Meanwhile, Schwazer and his legal team will now try to convince the Swiss Federal Court to overturn a former decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport by referring to the court acquittal in Bolzano, Italy.
Alex Schwazer’s case is among the most complex and controversial in antidoping. You can read the story in full detail in an exposé authored by Andy Brown from the Sports Integrity Initative.