October 5, 2015 / 6:51 PM / 4 years ago

Italy's Kostner cleared to compete next year

LONDON (Reuters) - Former figure skating world champion Carolina Kostner can compete in 2016 after settling a dispute with the Italian Olympic Committee and World Anti-Doping Agency over whether she helped her ex-boyfriend cover up his doping.

Carolina Kostner of Italy performs during the ladies free skating program on her way to finishing second place in the ladies competition at the Skate America ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Ontario, California October 23, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

The 2012 world champion was banned for 16 months in January after Italian officials found her guilty of assisting 2008 Olympic race walking gold medalist Alex Schwazer in evading a drugs test.

On Monday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said Kostner agreed to a demand by Italian doping officials to increase the suspension to 21 months but to backdate the start of the ban to April 1 2014.

“The resulting twenty one month ineligibility period is backdated to 1 April 2014 based on procedural delays that are not attributable to Ms Kostner,” CAS said in a statement.

“Ms Kostner will therefore be eligible to compete from 1 January 2016.”

Despite the backdating of her ban, the 28-year-old will not lose the bronze medals she won at the Sochi Olympics or 2014 world championships as those competitions ended before April 1.

Fellow Italian Schwazer, who struck gold in the 50km walk at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was banned for 3-1/2 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 Schwazer was not around but added that she did not know he was using performance-enhancing drugs.

Schwazer pulled out of defending his Olympic title in London in 2012 after admitting that he bought the blood-booster EPO and lied to Kostner about storing the banned substance in their fridge.

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.

Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ken Ferris

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