Injured party becomes main suspect in Schwazer doping case

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There is much of interest in the 34-page court order in which Bolzano’s investigating magistrate, Walter Pelino, requested a “further supplementary report in the criminal proceedings against Alex Schwazer, born in Vipiteno on 12/26/194”, for violation of article 9(1) of anti-doping law 376/2000. What is strange is that the report in many places reads like an indictment against at least two of the injured parties in the proceedings, the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), as well as asking for cooperation from the third (the Italian Athletics Federation) to uncover the truth.

Also strange is the fact that it is organised and written (very well, for a technical procedural document) as a sort of pamphlet, and above all because it shows a reversal of roles between the suspect (“There is reasonable doubt surrounding the suspect’s guilt”) and the injured party. The magistrate analyses in detail the famous emails between the IAAF and WADA recovered by Russian hackers, and deems that there may be a “plausible motive” for the possible manipulation of the athlete’s urine sample to “punish” him and his coach, Sandro Donati, “although everything needs to be checked”. In fact, the request to carry out the infamous surprise check on 1 January 2016 (much earlier than usual) was made on the day when Schwazer was testifying against the top medical staff at the IAAF who allegedly covered up his first case of doping. In addition to this, the chain of anomalies, omissions and examples of unwillingness to cooperate, listed in full by the magistrate are enough to cast serious doubt on the conduct of the sport’s governing body and anti-doping agency, “whose very credibility is at stake” in the words of the magistrate.

However, the most interesting part (and, above all, the new development) comes at the end of the court order, when the magistrate tries to find a way to check whether the characteristics of the athlete’s urine samples taken from the laboratory in Cologne were “unnatural”, in particular regarding the significant difference in DNA density found in two parts of the same sample, a discrepancy which defies scientific explanation. To establish a benchmark for what is normal or otherwise, experts from the Carabinieri’s forensic investigation unit (RIS) in Parma took urine samples from a hundred volunteers, without however obtaining significant results.

Pelino, meanwhile, wants the Italian Athletics Federation “to cooperate by providing at least 50 male volunteer athletes who walk competitively or engage in similar sporting activities and to take a urine sample from each of them.” In practice, the federation (the injured party in the proceedings) is being asked to find volunteers to clear the athlete under investigation. The world of Italian doping has seen some strange things, but this is a first. What is certain is that the expert’s report will not be ready before next summer, four and a half years since the events. Consequently, the dropping of the case against the defendant (almost inevitable, at this point) or further investigations will be postponed until a later, unspecified date.

17 ottobre 2019 (modifica il 17 ottobre 2019 | 17:54)

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