September 19, 2014

ROME (AP) Former figure skating world champion Carolina Kostner risks punishment for skipping a hearing before Italian authorities investigating whether she was complicit in doping by her former boyfriend and Olympic race walking gold medalist Alex Schwazer.

Kostner, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist and 2012 world champion, was to be asked by the Italian Olympic Committee's anti-doping prosecutor on Friday about allegations she told judicial officials in Bolzano that she helped Schwazer evade a test and knew he slept with a banned altitude machine.

The CONI hearing was moved up a few hours on a request from Kostner, who is retired from competition, so she could prepare for the Opera on Ice show in Verona this weekend.

CONI said in a statement that Kostner's lawyer sent an email early Friday saying she would not show up, and that one more final hearing would be scheduled.

Schwazer, who won the 50-kilometer 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 3 1/2 years in April 2013.

The 27-year-old 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. She also risks punishment for failing to cooperate with CONI. 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 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.

Ottavio Cinquanta, an Italian who is the president of the ISU and a CONI board member, said he wanted to let CONI do its job without any interference.

''I don't know exactly what she did but she has to maintain contact with CONI,'' Cinquanta told The Associated Press by phone from Milan. ''But if that's what she did, evidently it's because she has other interests.

''The fact that people are talking about it certainly isn't good.''

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.

''Carolina Kostner has absolutely nothing to do with this case,'' said Gerhard Brandstaetter, Schwazer's lawyer.

However, recently published reports of Kostner's testimony to Bolzano prosecutors revealed 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.

Kostner allegedly said Schwazer told her to tell the inspectors he wasn't home, and she carried out his instructions. She 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.

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Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf

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