The penalty handed to the athlete from Cordova, Argentina runs from January 2020 to January 2024.
Bertola won silver medals at the Pan American Games in open water both in 2019, finishing 2nd behind Ecuador’s Esteban Enderica; and in 2011, where he finished 3rd behind Richard Weinberger of Canada and Arthur Frayler of the United States.
Bertola admitted before FINA to performing a blood transfusion without notifying either FINA or the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). That transfusion was carried out during the Santa Fe-Coronda marathon swimming event, in early 2018.
Resulting from this sanction, all of Bertola’s results obtained during the 2018 and 2019 seasons have been disqualified, and the respective awards will have to be returned. Among the swimmer’s achievements during that time period are silver medals earned at the FINA Open Water World Series and the 2018 South American Championships, along with Lima 2019 Pan-American Games silver medal.
Regarding the updated results, American Taylor Abbott will now be the official second place finisher in the 10-kilometer event from Lima, with Brazil’s Victor Colonese promoted to a bronze medal. The only medalist to keep his award is Esteban Enderica of Ecuador, 2019 Pan-American champion and subject to a long odyssey in order to return home a few months ago.
“I was shocked when I read the sanction. I am sad and disappointed. I am aware that I asked for it. Two years is hard but it is passable. But four years and to acknowledge that all the effort you made will be taken away from you, given that they have other samples, seems very severe to me,” Bertola said during an interview with MundoD after learning about the penalty.
This is the third positive doping case involving Argentine swimming in the last four years, all of which involved long-distance swimmers.
Shortly before the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the Argentine Olympic Committee (COA) announced that Martin Carrizo, who at the time had qualified for the Olympics in the 1500 free, wound up being withdrawn from the Olympic roster. Carrizo faced a two-year suspension after testing positive for EPO. The Santa Fe native returned to represent Argentina in the Lima Pan-American Games last summer, following a mea culpa he shared with SwimSwam Espanol the day he earned his spot on the continental championship team.
A year later, in the midst of the FINA 2017 Budapest World Cup, another 1500 freestyle specialist, Martin Naidich, had to withdraw from the meet when FINA informed the Argentine Confederation of Water Sports (CADDA) that it had adverse results relating to anti-doping controls. In 2013, the Olympic swimmer surprised everyone by breaking South American records in the 800 free (7:57.60) and 1500 free (15:10.24) during that year’s Maria Lenk Trophy, achieving standards that still stand as Argentinian records. However, the details of the prohibited substance were never disclosed as the sanction was not made public and Naidich himself never swam again.