Gold medal-winning race walker Alex Schwazer relieved by doping ban: “I couldn’t take it anymore”

Cameron Smith
Fourth-Place Medal

A day after defending Olympic gold-medal champion race walker Alex Schwazer was kicked out of the London Games for blood doping, the Italian gave a lengthy, tear-filled press conference proclaiming that he was actually happy he had been caught using illegal substances.

Former gold medal winning race walker Alex Schwazer — Getty Images
Former gold medal winning race walker Alex Schwazer — Getty Images

"When you wait for your girlfriend to go to train so that you can lock yourself in the bathroom and inject EPO in your veins so that no one will know, it's not nice," Schwazer said in an emotional press conference on Wednesday.

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"I'm not made to take drugs or to deceive people, and I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't wait for the whole thing to end."

A blood sample taken from Schwazer just before the opening of the Olympics tested positive for the substance erythropoietin, more commonly referred to as EPO, a substance which can increase the blood's oxygenation. EPO has been the synthetic drug of choice for endurance athletes, with the world-record-holding race walker's positive test just the latest EPO scandal to plague competitive race walking, let alone more popular and lucrative sports like competitive cycling.

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In his comments on Wednesday, Schwazer swore he only took the drug in the month leading up to the London Games out of a desperate desire to defend his gold medal. According to Reuters, Schwazer obtained the drug in Turkey in September, after which he stored the drug in the refrigerator he shares with his girlfriend, world-champion figure skater Carolina Kostner.

After telling Kostner that his EPO stores were actually vitamins for months, Schwazer said that he was relieved when he could finally own up to the duplicity he had used with both Kostner, his parents, teammates and the rest of the Italian public.

"It would have been enough to tell my mum not to open the door or to tell them I wasn't home," Schwazer told the press on Thursday. "But I couldn't take it anymore.

"What is most important for me is to liberate myself of this weight I have inside. I dream of another life."

For Schwazer, that life starts on Thursday, when he plans to walk away from competitive athletics forever and spend more time with Kostner, his longtime girlfriend. While he may face further discipline from the Italian military because of his status as a member of the Carabinieri, that clearly will bring less stress to the former Olympic champion than the secret he kept from the rest of the world leading up to his London race.

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