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Ex-Olympic race walking champion Schwazer plea bargains in doping case; hopes to compete again

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BOLZANO, Italy — Former Olympic race walking gold medalist Alex Schwazer was handed an eight-month suspended prison sentence Monday under a plea bargain deal with prosecutors investigating him for doping, and he hopes to compete again.

Schwazer will also pay a 6,000-euro ($7,350) fine as part of the deal.

Schwazer, who won the 50-kilometer walk at the 2008 Beijing Games, failed an out-of-competition test before arriving at the 2012 London Olympics 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 now wants to compete at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, with his 3 1/2-year ban from the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) expiring in January, 2016. However, CONI is still investigating him and could extend his ban.

Doping is also a criminal offense in Italy, and Bolzano prosecutor Guido Rispoli has been leading an inquiry attempting to show that coaches and doctors knew that Schwazer was doping long before he tested positive, possibly dating to Beijing.

"Schwazer wants to become an anti-doping spokesman to prevent other kids from making his mistake," the athlete's lawyer, Gerhard Brandstatter, said. "With the plea bargain Alex has already turned the page so to speak. Now we're waiting to close the case with the sports authorities."

Meanwhile, Schwazer's ex-girlfriend and former figure skating world champion Carolina Kostner will be judged by CONI's anti-doping court on Jan. 16 over whether she helped cover up Schwazer's use of banned drugs by helping him avoid a test.

CONI's anti-doping prosecutor has requested a ban of four years and three months for Kostner, who is taking this year off from competition.

Kostner, the bronze medalist at this year's Sochi Olympics, has said she didn't know anything about Schwazer's doping. Kostner is not under investigation by prosecutors in Bolzano.

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