ROME – Former figure skating world champion Carolina Kostner claimed she had nothing to do with doping by her former boyfriend and Olympic race walking gold medalist Alex Schwazer during an exhausting four-hour hearing Friday.
Having failed to show up last week before the Italian Olympic Committee’s anti-doping prosecutor, Kostner was finally asked about reports that she told judicial officials that she helped Schwazer evade a test and knew he used a banned altitude machine.
“Carolina cleared up all the doubts there were to clear up and I think the anti-doping prosecutor was very satisfied on all accounts,” said Giovanni Fontana, Kostner’s lawyer. “She didn’t cover up anything for anyone. Carolina is extraneous from the entire case.”
Kostner, who was also accompanied by another lawyer and her manager to the hearing inside the Stadio Olimpico offices, exited by a backdoor and did not speak with reporters.
“She’s used to a completely different type of attention and that’s why we thought that after four hours she should rest up a bit,” Fontana said.
Schwazer, who won the 50-km walk at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was excluded from the 2012 London Olympics after testing positive for EPO before the games.
Prosecutors believe coaches and doctors knew that Schwazer was doping long before he tested positive, possibly dating to Beijing. He was banned by CONI for 3½ years in April 2013.
Kostner risks a ban of up to four years from all sports activities in Italy and abroad for aiding and failing to report Schwazer’s doping. A ban would also prevent her from appearing in non-competitive events or shows worldwide that are supported by the International Skating Union, CONI said.
Kostner, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist and 2012 world champion, is taking this year off from competition.
The 27-year-old Kostner has also won two silvers and three bronzes at the worlds, and is a five-time European champion. It remains unclear if she could be banned retroactively and be stripped of medals.
“Kostner has absolutely nothing to do with doping,” Fontana said. “It’s not like she won her medals because she told the anti-doping inspectors that Schwazer was not home that day.”
Schwazer failed an out-of-competition test before arriving in London and was removed from Italy’s team before competing. He admitted using the blood-boosting hormone EPO, and said he was quitting the sport.
Schwazer also admitted to consulting with Lance Armstrong’s banned sport doctor, Michele Ferrari.
Kostner has acknowledged accompanying Schwazer for a visit to Ferrari’s mobile office in 2010, although she maintains that she did not know he doped.
“That was an entirely sporadic instance,” Fontana said. “She saw him only once and she didn’t even know his name was Dr. Michele Ferrari. She thought he was a physical trainer because they talked about training data and stuff like that.”
However, recently published reports of Kostner’s testimony to Bolzano prosecutors showed she allegedly admitted to lying to inspectors from the World Anti-Doping Agency who came to her home in Germany looking for Schwazer on July 29, 2012 — days before Schwazer flew to London for the Olympics.
Fontana said Kostner told inspectors Schwazer wasn’t home to respect his privacy, because on his WADA whereabouts form for that day he had listed that he would available in Italy at a different time.
Ultimately, the WADA inspectors caught up with Schwazer and that’s when he tested positive.
“There can’t be any rules violation because he was found, tested and resulted positive,” Fontana said.
Kostner also allegedly told the prosecutors about the altitude chamber, adding that the noise it produced at night prompted her to sleep with ear plugs.
While altitude simulation chambers are not banned by WADA, they are illegal in Italy.
But Fontana said Schwazer used the machine in Germany and that it also helped with breathing problems such as asthma.
After reviewing Kostner’s testimony and perhaps more hearings with others, CONI prosecutors Tammaro Maiello and Mario Vigna will recommend a sentence. Then the case will be decided by CONI’s internal doping court.