World Athletics president Sebastian Coe has warned Italy not to be on the “wrong side of history” after a court cleared Olympic champion walker Alex Schwazer of doping.
Schwazer was suspended for eight years just before the 2016 Olympics for testing positive for anabolic steroids, but has claimed he was the victim of foul play.
The samples taken on January 1, 2016, had initially given negative results but a new analysis, the following May, revealed traces of doping products.
Schwazer had previously served a three-and-a-half year ban for testing positive for the blood booster erythropoietin (EPO) before the 2012 London Olympics. He had not disputed the results of that test.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) hit the Italian, winner of the 50km race walk at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with an eight-year ban for his second offence.
But last month Schwazer was cleared of criminal proceedings by an Italian judge who considered that his samples from 2016 could have been altered.
“We do resolutely reject any attempt by the athlete or any individuals associated with the athlete to undermine or seek to annul the final Court of Arbitration (for Sport – CAS) ruling,” Coe said.
“It was an award based on what can be best described as far-fetched manipulation theories.”
Citing his love of Italy, where he spent a large part of his international season when an athlete, two-time Olympic 1500m gold medallist Coe said: “I don’t want Italy to be on the wrong side of history here.
“The Athletics Integrity Unit and World Athletics stand absolutely by the position they’ve taken.
“The issue is clearly one that is exercising Italy and it is important that we remain very firm and very resolute here.
“I don’t want Italian track and field to be tainted. I just hope that people recognise that this is an important issue and history will be unkind.”
Coe added that World Athletics had successfully defended the appeal Schwazer had taken to the Swiss federal court that sought a revision of the CAS findings.
“We are going to stand firm on this and it’s important that we do, not just for this individual case, but that we continue to fight the right cause,” he said.