Australia’s Jared Tallent has criticised the decision by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to allow Italy’s Alex Schwazer – who was returning from a three-and-a half year doping ban – to compete at the World Race Walking Team Championships.
Schwazer, the Beijing 2008 50 kilometres Olympic champion, was banned after a positive Erythropoietin test ahead of London 2012.
The Italian had claimed he had retired from the sport following his positive test, but after his suspension drew to a close on April 29 he was named in the Italian team for the World Championships in Rome.
With entries having closed on April 25, the Italians were required to pay a “late fee” for Schwazer’s application to be approved.
The Italian then returned from his ban in some style – earning gold in the 50km race by finishing in a time of three hours and 39 minutes, more than three minutes quicker than Tallent who crossed the line second in 3:42.26.
Following the race on May 8, Tallent – who was upgraded to the London 2012 Olympic gold medal after the winner was exposed as a drugs cheat – was critical of the decision to allow Schwazer to compete and believes it is damaging for athletics.
“It’s a really bad image for the sport and now it’s even more controversial than it was,” he told The Australian.
“I didn’t shake his hand or say well done or talk to him, and we had a bit of a confrontation in the hotel a few days before the race.
“He said in the press conference that he hadn’t raced for four years so I questioned that because I’ve been told he’s done two time trials that were set up by officials in Italy.
“There have been complaints made to WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] about it but nothing has been done.”
Prior to the Championships, it was announced that Tallent would belatedly be awarded his London 2012 gold medal from the men’s 50 kilometre race walk on June 17 in Melbourne.
The 31-year-old is now Olympic champion due to the disqualification of Russia’s former winner Sergey Kirdyapkin, whose ban was extended to include the London Games following an IAAF appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in March.
Schwazer’s return to competition and likely appearance at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, having earned a berth due to his World Championship gold, has been met with further criticism.
Last month, Italian Olympic high jumper Gianmarco Tamberi described the 31-year-old as the “shame of Italy” and stated on Facebook that “our strength is being clean, we don’t want him on the national team”.
Canadian race walker Evan Dunfee also tweeted that he had been removed from the medal ceremony in Rome, with the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games 20km walk champion reportedly calling the Italian a “dirty cheat”.
Schwazer’s former girlfriend, Olympic figure skating medallist Carolina Kostner, had a 16-month suspension for being complicit in helping to cover-up his doping extended by a further five months in October by the CAS.
Her suspension, which was backdated to April 1, 2014, has now drawn to a close with the skater free to resume competing.
By Michael Pavitt
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz