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ROME (Reuters) - Olympic figure skating bronze medalist and 2012 world champion Carolina Kostner has been handed a 16-month ban after Italian officials found her guilty of assisting ex-boyfriend Alex Schwazer in covering up his doping.
The Italian race walker, who struck gold in the 50km walk at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was banned for three-and-a-half years after failing a drugs test in 2012.
Kostner admitted lying to officials when they arrived at her home looking for Schwazer so that he could provide a sample for a drug test.
She told them that Schwazer was not around but added that she did not know he was using performance-enhancing drugs.
"I'm determined to go right to the end to find justice. Of course I am not happy, I feel very bitter and disappointed," Kostner told Italian media on Friday after the country's anti-doping tribunal handed down its verdict.
Schwazer pulled out of defending his Olympic title in London in 2012 after admitting that he bought EPO and lied to Kostner about storing the banned substance in their fridge.
Kostner, who is appealing the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, added: "I lied on his request. But I never, never covered for him, because I had no idea what he was doing."
Kostner's ban starts from Friday and hence the 27-year-old will not lose any of her medals. As she had already decided to sit out the 2014-15 season, she was not due to compete in this year's world championships in Shanghai in March.
The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) prosecutor had asked for a 27-month ban to be imposed on the skater but the tribunal has the final say.
Crowd favorite Kostner, a six-times world championships medalist and five-times European champion, finally won an Olympic medal at her third Winter Games with a sultry performance to Ravel's Bolero in Sochi last year.
The International Skating Union was unable to comment when contacted by Reuters.
Writing by Pritha Sarkar in London, editing by Mark Meadows