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A British journalist was threatened with Novichok-style poisoning after revealing that a teenage Russian star of the Winter Olympics had tested positive for a banned drug.
Figure skater Kamila Valieva, 15, failed a drugs test in December but the result came through only last Tuesday – the day after she helped her team win gold in Beijing.
Kamila Valieva at a training session yesterday, prior the Figure Skating Event at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games
The Daily Mail’s chief sports feature writer, Riath Al-Samarrai, and Mackay’s colleague Michael Pavitt were also threatened.
Al-Samarrai was confronted by Russian journalists for simply asking Valieva a question. His name and details were later posted online, triggering a torrent of sinister abuse.
Litvinenko, 43, endured an agonising death after drinking a cup of tea laced with polonium-210, a rare radioactive substance. Russia was later held responsible for the killing.
Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury in 2018. Both recovered.
The Daily Mail’s chief sports feature writer, Riath Al-Samarrai, and Mackay’s colleague Michael Pavitt were also threatened
The suspected assassins – Russian intelligence officers Anatoliy Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin – were caught on CCTV as they travelled from Moscow to the Wiltshire cathedral city.
The doping scandal, which has cast a dark cloud over Beijing 2022, was revealed by Mackay’s Inside the Games website.
Valieva failed a test for the angina drug Trimetazidine and is now waiting to find out if she faces suspension, preventing her from competing further.
On Friday, Al-Samarrai tried to speak to Valieva when she passed through the so-called ‘mixed zone’ where athletes meet with the media after they have finished an event. When he asked if she was ‘clean’, she covered her face with her hood and carried on walking.
Figure skater Ms Valieva, 15, failed a drugs test in December but the result came through only last Tuesday – the day after she helped her team win gold in Beijing
Five Russian journalists then confronted him, angrily protesting that he should not have approached her.
Some took pictures of his media accreditation with their phones. Hours later, Al-Samarrai was called a ‘vulture’ and ‘scum’ on Twitter.
The Valieva row has provoked a defensive response from Russia, still subject to sanctions by the International Olympic Committee after being found guilty of state-sponsored and institutionalised doping.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov defended the teenager, calling the incident ‘a misunderstanding’ and adding: ‘Hold your head up, you’re a Russian, go proudly and beat everyone!’
The International Olympic Committee said yesterday that it would welcome an anti-doping investigation into Valieva’s ‘entourage’ following questions raised about the role played by the adults around her.
‘Entourage has been overlooked in the past,’ said IOC spokesman Mark Adams. The committee would welcome an ‘investigation into the entourage in all cases where it’s relevant. Entourage ranges from doctors and coaches, parents everyone,’ he added.
Double Olympic figure skating champion Katarina Witt insisted Valieva ‘is not to blame here’.