Father of Olympic walk champ takes blame in doping scandal

'I should have talked to him' says Josef Schwazer

Father of Olympic walk champ takes blame in doping scandal

(ANSA) - London, August 7 - The father of disgraced Italian Olympic walk champion Alex Schwazer said Tuesday he blames himself for the doping scandal that led to his son's exclusion from the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. "The responsibility is all mine, because if you see a child who throughout the years has been behaving badly, one must understand and must try to talk to him about it," Josef Schwazer said tearfully from his home in Bolzano on Tuesday. He joined a chorus of voices trying to make sense of why Italy's defending Olympic 50km-walk champion used banned substances. On Monday Alex Schwazer took full responsibility after he was expelled from competition for failing a drug test. His father suggested Schwazer, who won the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was afraid of failure. "The last time he left here, he was shattered," and perhaps feared disappointing others, his father added. "This was 100% the first time he made use of these substances". Schwazer tested positive for the blood-boosting hormone EPO according to exams taken on July 30 in Oberstdorf, Germany, where he was training, local sources said. An Olympic official on Tuesday called the doping a "shameful act," but said it also demonstrates that controls for illegal substances work. "I am sad for Italian sport, but also happy about this disqualification because this means that the fight against doping is working," Mario Pescante, a member of the International Olympic Committee and a former middle-distance runner, told RAI radio. Schwazer would have needed a doctor's help with the substance, he added, but that still doesn't remove the athlete's culpability. At the same time, said Pescante, this incident does not tarnish Schwazer's 2008 gold medal. Schwazer admitted guilt once his coach made the news public, and said it had destroyed his athletic career. "It's better if you don't ask me how I feel. I made a mistake," Schwazer told ANSA on Monday. "I wanted to be stronger for this Olympics. I made a mistake". In a statement, the 28-year-old said his career was over. "I did everything by myself, and thus I assume all of the responsibility for what has happened. Today my life in athletics is over". His coach dismissed those comments, telling ANSA that the defending champ needed to "grow up and change his life" after the news of his drug test and subsequent expulsion surfaced. "I didn't even want to ask him why he did it. There is no justification. At 28, you're a man, not a child." Another former gold medalist suggested the pressure on a champion to win again is intense, but that is no excuse. "He made a mistake, but he wasn't alone," Abdon Pamich, who won the Italian team a gold medal in the 50km event in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, told ANSA. "After the gold in Beijing, things had changed. Maybe he couldn't withstand the responsibilities and was afraid of defeat". A police officer and former ice-hockey player from the northern Italian town of Vitipeno, Schwazer set an Olympic record four years ago in Beijing by covering the longest race in the athletics program in three hours, 37 minutes and nine seconds. His girlfriend is Italy's figure-skating world champion Carolina Kostner. Schwazer is to speak at a press conference Wednesday in Bolzano.

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