Rome, Dec. 3, (GNA/dpa) – Some of the biggest names in Italian athletics risk missing out on next year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics following a request late Wednesday from anti-doping authorities to impose a two-year ban on 26 athletes.
The Italian Olympic Committee CONI said they are accused of evading official tests, while the charge of failing to report on their whereabouts – an obligation for all professional athletes – was dropped.
World champion pole-vaulter Giuseppe Gibilisco, former world silver medallist long-jumper Andrew Howe, former European triple jump champion Fabrizio Donato and former world-class sprinter Simone Collio are among the athletes at risk of sanctions.
A sports tribunal is yet to make a decision on the 2-year ban request.
The CONI President Giovanni Malago downplayed the accusations Thursday, which he said covered the 2009-2012 period.
“These people are not cheats,” he told RTL 102.5 radio, arguing that technical problems with now-abandoned reporting procedures were to blame for miscommunication problems. “There is ample room for justification,” he said.
Malago said athletes used to have to send faxes to signal their whereabouts to their sports federation, which would forward them to anti-doping authorities.
“It was a very inefficient system,” he said, adding that the process is now done by mobile phone applications.
The doping investigations were triggered by the case of Alex Schwazer, a race walker who won Olympic gold in 2008 but was caught doping just head of the London 2012 Games and banned three and a half years.
A total of 65 athletes were probed, but anti-doping prosecutors cleared 39 of them, sustaining the accusations only against the group of 26.
One of them, hammer thrower Silvia Salis, professed her innocence in remarks carried by the ANSA news agency: “People who know me know that in my 15 years of career I have always fought against doping.”
The President of the Italian Athletics Federation FIDAL, Alfio Gionni, expressed “confidence” in the work of anti-doping authorities and called for a “speedy resolution of the judicial case.”
Former high jumper Sara Simeoni, an Olympic champion in 1980, told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that the scandal had made her stomach “churn.”
She stressed that doping “is not just an Italian problem,” and called for tougher punishment against drug cheats. “If you break the rules you should be out, life bans would send out a strong signal,” she said.