Italy chiefs say doping scandal is procedural mix up
By Gavin Jones
ROME (Reuters) - Italy's top athletics authorities on Thursday defended 26 athletes at the center of a doping scandal, saying the affair was a question of inefficient procedures rather than illicit substances.
On Wednesday Italy's National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) called for two-year bans for 26 athletes, including many of Italy's best-known Olympic and European Championship medal-winners of the last 10 years.
The NADO accuses the athletes of evading doping controls or failing make themselves available for them, in a case which followed a police investigation in the northern Italian region of Trentino Alto Adige.
"These kids aren't people who cheated, it's simply a question of procedure in communicating where they were," said Giovanni Malago, the president of Italy's National Olympic Committee (CONI) in a radio interview.
The athletes repeatedly failed to respond to emails from the authorities in 2011-2012 requesting information on their whereabouts so they could be subjected to random doping tests, according to Corriere della Sera and other dailies on Thursday.
Malago said the problem had been due to inefficient procedures which had since been tightened up.
He said the requests for information had not been sufficiently formal, with "no type of warning," whereas "now there is a warning and then a yellow card and then a red card."
Alfio Giomi, the head of Italy's Athletics Federation, told reporters at a news conference that the federation was "convinced there has been a mistake" and it would make legal assistance available to all the athletes involved. Continued...