Clean–cut, young and promising. Alex Schwazer was supposed to be a great hope for the Italian Olympics team and fans, yet has become the biggest disappointment of these Games.
The race walk champion was expelled from the London Olympics after testing positive for doping on Monday.
“I was wrong. My career is finished,” said Mr Schwazer, gold medal winner in Beijing in 2008. “I wanted to be stronger for these Olympics,” added the 27-year-old athlete, who is due to give a press conference on Wednesday.
The Italian national Olympic committee removed him from the team and Gianni Petrucci, chairman, spoke of a “bitter day” for Italian sports. “This day has been now ruined by this terrible news that has shocked us. We cannot compromise: one medal down, yet greater cleanliness,” said Mr Petrucci.
Mr Schwazer was not in London, where he was due to defend his title in the 50km race on Sunday. He failed the test for EPO, a blood booster, conducted by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
“I acted alone and take responsibility”, said Mr Schwazer.
Michele Didoni, his trainer, said “there are no justifications” and that he felt “mocked and ripped off”. “We had talked about (doping) and were clearly against it,” he said in an interview with an Italian daily.
Mr Schwazer was one of the Italian squad’s biggest medal hopes for this year’s Olympics. He won the last Games with a record time of 3 hours, 37 minutes, 9 seconds.
“His passions are the mountains, rock music and a beer with his friends,” reads his Facebook profile, where angry posts were sent along with others encouraging him to continue racing.
Other than his sport undertakings, he was well-known among Italians for starring in a television ad for Kinder chocolate bars.
Italian group Ferrero, owner of the Kinder brand, confirmed that his contract, due to expire at the end of the Olympics, is not going to be renewed. “Ferrero is upset from a human point of view,” reads the company statement.