ROME (Reuters) – A doping case against retired Italian Olympic 50km walk champion Alex Schwazer was dismissed by a Bolzano court on Thursday.
Italian news agency ANSA reported that the court said it was “highly likely” that Schwazer’s urine samples were tampered with in 2016 to produce a positive test.
The court offered a full acquittal, saying Schwazer “did not commit the crime”.
The International Athletics Federation (IAAF) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) were described as being “opaque” during the case.
WADA hit back at the ruling in a harshly worded statement, rejecting the defamatory criticism contained in the decision.
“WADA has noted with grave concern comments made earlier today by a court judge in Bolzano, Italy, in handing down a decision in the criminal case against race walker Alex Schwazer,” WADA said.
“While the decision is lengthy and will need to be assessed in full, WADA is appalled by the multiple reckless and groundless allegations made by the judge against the organization and other parties to this case.”
WADA noted that over the course of the proceedings it provided overwhelming evidence that was corroborated by independent experts, which it says the judge rejected in favour of unsubstantiated theories.
Schwazer, the 2008 Olympic champion, was banned for three years and nine months after admitting using the erythropoietin (EPO) blood booster in 2012.
He returned to win the world championship title in 2016, but was then banned for eight years and missed the Rio Olympics after losing an appeal in a second doping case, when a retest of a sample showed traces of steroids.
Schwazer denied knowingly taking the substance and his trainer, Sandro Donati, said he was the victim of “sporting homicide” by the IAAF.
(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie and Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Dan Grebler and Ed Osmond)