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Teenage Russian ice skater Kamila Valieva has today been cleared to compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics despite testing positive for a banned drug – because officials say she is a ‘protected person’ who could suffer ‘irreparable harm’ from a ban.
The decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport has sparked outrage from fellow competitors who say it has whiffs of corruption and shows Russia’s ‘disregard for clean sport’.
American former Olympic champion Tara Lipinski said Valieva’s age should not be a factor in the decision and called her reinstatement a ‘permanent scar on our sport’.
The International Olympic Committee clarified Valieva will be allowed take part in the women’s individual figure skating competition but that there will be no medal ceremony if she is among the prize winners.
Valieva landed the first ever quadruple jump by a woman at the Winter Olympics, to win gold for the Russian team last week ahead of US in silver and Japan in bronze.
But the following day the medal ceremony was put on hold when results from a test on December 25 last year found she had taken the banned substance, trimetazidine, that can enhance performance.
A CAS panel last night said she should continue to perform due to the ‘exceptional circumstances’ of her case.
Up in the air: Teenage Russian ice skater Kamila Valieva (pictured training today) has been cleared to continue to compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics despite testing positive for a banned drug
The 15-year-old landed the first ever quadruple jump by a woman at the Winter Olympics, to win gold for the Russian team last week. She took a tumble in training today (pictured)
Valieva has today been told it would be unfair to suspend her from the Olympics by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after a near six hour grilling in Beijing by video. She is pictured, today, picking herself up off the ice after taking a tumble in training
Valieva winces after crashing over during a training routing in Beijing this morning
Cold comfort: Valieva embraces coach Eteri Tutberidze during a training session this morning
USPOC chief executive Sarah Hirshland today lashed out at the CAS ruling in a tweet decrying Russia’s ‘pervasive disregard for clean sport’
Kamila Valieva timeline
FEB 6: Valieva makes her Olympic debut in the short program section of the mixed team event. Her routine scores 90.18, just short of her own world record of 90.45.
FEB 7: Valieva becomes the first female figure skater to land quad jumps in an Olympic Games, as her free skate routine seals victory for Russia in the mixed team event.
FEB 8: The medal ceremony for the mixed team is event is delayed due to what the International Skating Union (ISU) describe as a ‘legal issue’ which requires further consultation.
FEB 9: The ‘Inside The Games’ website names Valieva as the figure skater at the centre of a doping probe which is delaying the awarding of medals.
FEB 11: The International Testing Agency (ITA) confirms Valieva tested positive for the banned heart medication trimetazidine on Christmas Day. It says it is appealing the lifting of a provisional suspension by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA).
FEB 12: The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the ISU confirm they have also filed suits to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, whose ad-hoc committee meets to determine the case. Valieva, who continues to practice in Beijing, makes an appeal by video-link.
FEB 14: The CAS announces that Valieva has been cleared to continue to compete. CAS cited ‘exceptional circumstances’ for the decision, essentially revolving around her status as a ‘protected person’ on the World Anti-Doping Code.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said it was disappointed with the ruling while US former Olympic champion Tara Lipinski posted on Twitter: ‘At the end of the day, there was a positive test and there is no question in my mind that she should not be allowed to compete. Regardless of age or timing of the test/results. I believe this will leave a permanent scar on our sport.’
Meanwhile two-time Olympic figure skating champion Johnny Weir said: ‘I can’t condone the decision. There was a positive drug test, therefore the athlete who tested positive, at fault or not, regardless of age or timing of test/result, should not be allowed to compete against clean athletes.’
The United States Olympic Committee (USPOC) described the decision as ‘another chapter in the systemic and pervasive disregard for clean sport by Russia’.
USPOC chief executive Sarah Hirshland said: ‘We are disappointed by the message this decision sends.
‘It is the collective responsibility of the entire Olympic community to protect the integrity of sport and to hold our athletes, coaches and all involved to the highest of standards.
‘Athletes have the right to know they are competing on a level playing field. Unfortunately, today that right is being denied. This appears to be another chapter in the systemic and pervasive disregard for clean sport by Russia.
‘We know this case is not yet closed and we call on everyone in the Olympic Movement to continue to fight for clean sport on behalf of athletes around the world.’
The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), whose athletes finished fourth in the figure skating team event, added: ‘The situation that has unfolded with respect to the Russian figure skating athlete’s doping case is extremely unfortunate and sad for the athletes.
‘The COC is fully committed to clean sport and we firmly believe that no one involved in doping or other corrupt practices has a place in the Olympic Movement.’
The International Skating Union said it needed ‘time to assess before making any further comments’ but added it respected the ruling.
The 15-year-old, from Moscow, was found to have taken the banned drug Trimetazidine which is usually used for the prevention of angina but has also been proved to enhance endurance and physical efficiency.
A Russian bobsledder and a Chinese swimmer have served bans after testing positive for it.
Former US figure skater Ashley Wagner said she was ‘numb… shocked, disappointed, ashamed and furious’ from the decision.
‘This makes a mockery of clean competition and underlines the idea that if you’re under 18, skating clean means something different. So unfair to the clean athletes of this event, and this Olympics,’ Wagner wrote.
Fellow former US figure skater Polina Edmunds said she hoped Valieva’s case was a ‘wake up call’ for the International Skating Union to ‘change the direction of women’s skating’.
‘Awarding the technical over all else is dangerous to the integrity of our sport, and many more athletes will continue to suffer the consequences, in health, if not stopped.’
Edmunds added: ‘Too many clean athletes have injured themselves trying to achieve the new technical standard. A standard set at with an unfair advantage point, if we’re being truthful. No protection for the athletes, no limitations placed for their safety, just sensationalized exploitation.’
‘While the focus should be on the adults responsible for allowing usage of a banned substance, that cannot excuse the athlete at ANY AGE. Kamila has recieved all the titles and medals. Allowing her a pass bc ‘she’s a minor’ is unfair to the clean athletes who have the same dreams.’
The decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport came after three investigators met with the teenage athlete, the Russian Olympic Committee and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency by video in Beijing in a near six hour grilling.
The challenge was brought by the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The arbitrators were Fabio Iidica of Italy, Jeffrey Benz of the US and Dr Vesna Bergant Rakocevic of Slovenia.
But the revelations once again brings Russian sport into disrepute and will be of some embarrassment to Olympic chiefs.
CAS stated in its ruling: ‘The panel considered fundamental principle of fairness, proportionality, irreparable harm, and the relative balance of interests as between the applicants and the athlete, who did not test positive during the Olympic Games in Beijing and is still subject to a disciplinary procedure on the merits following the positive anti-doping test undertaken in December 2021.
‘In particular, the panel considered that preventing the athlete from competing at the Olympic Games would cause her irreparable harm in these circumstances.
‘The CAS panel also emphasised that there were serious issues of untimely notification of the results in the athlete’s anti-doping test that was performed in December 2021 which impinged upon the athlete’s ability to establish certain legal requirements for her benefit, while such late notification was not her fault, in the middle of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.’
Athletes under 16 like Valieva have more rights under anti-doping rules and typically are not held responsible for taking banned substances. The focus of any future investigation will be on her coaches, doctors and nutritionists.
Nevertheless Russian officials welcomed the decision, with the ROC saying: ‘Tomorrow the whole country will cheer on her and all our wonderful figure skaters in the individual competition.’
Russian Figure Skating Federation President Alexander Gorshkov said: ‘I’m very happy for Valieva and glad that common sense and justice triumphed.’
At the rink Tuesday, the ice dance competition was decided as the CAS prepared its verdict.
Gold medalists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France and American bronze medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue offered, ‘No comment.’
Nikita Katsalapov, who along with Victoria Sinitsina won the silver medal for the Russians, said simply: ‘Go Kamila!’
Hubbell and Donohue could have their silver medals upgraded to gold in the team competition.
‘There’s no done deal yet, but I know all the people in the team want to receive the medals here as a team’ Hubbell said. ‘If we miss that opportunity, it’s huge disappointment.’
‘Should Ms Valieva finish amongst the top three competitors in the Women’s Single Skating competition, no flower ceremony and no medal ceremony will take place during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022,’ the IOC said in a statement.
The IOC now says it will ‘organize dignified medal ceremonies once the case of Ms Valieva has been concluded,’ whenever that may be.
World skating authorities will also have to decide whether or not the team gold medal will be allowed to stand, in a process that could take months to complete.
In a spin: The 15-year-old landed the first ever quadruple jump by a woman at the Winter Olympics, to win gold for the Russian team last week. She is pictured training this morning
On thin ice: Following the CAS ruling, Valieva is now free to take part in the women’s individual figure skating competition on Tuesday, in which she is favourite for gold. She is pictured training this morning
The CAS panel ruled that a suspension could cause her ‘irreparable harm’ and said the youngster can continue to perform due to the ‘exceptional circumstances’ of her case. Valieva was pictured taking a fall in training this morning
World skating authorities will decide whether or not the team gold medal will be allowed to stand, in a process that could take months to complete. Valieva is pictured today after taking a fall on the ice during training
Valieva (pictured today), one of Russia’s most-promising Winter Olympians, had carried hopes of multiple gold medals with her when she flew from her training base in Moscow to Beijing for the Games
Her future was thrown into doubt just a day later when a WADA lab in Sweden detected the presence of trimetazidine in her urine
US former Olympic champion Tara Lipinski was among those who hit out at the CAS decision
Russia is under an Olympic ban and its non-tainted athletes have been allowed to compete under the flag of its Olympic Commission.
But the main question Olympic chiefs will want answers to is how a 15-year-old came to be guilty of doping and who was responsible for the offence as she is a minor.
Athletes and anti-doping chiefs blasted Russia for ‘abusing’ the teenage figure skater and called for her trainers to be ‘banned from sport forever’.
Valieva tested positive on February 8 – a day after taking gold in a team event – from a urine sample taken on December 25. She was cleared by Moscow’s anti-doping agency.
Travis Tygart, head of the US Anti-Doping Agency, said Valieva was being ‘abused by the Russian state system’ and that ‘this poor young woman deserves better’.
Katarina Witt, a two-time gold figure skater from Germany, went further – calling for any ‘responsible adults’ around Valieva to be kicked out of sport ‘forever’ while adding that her heart ‘cries infinitely’ for the teenager.
Rob Koehler, former head of the World Anti-Doping agency, hit out at the Olympics’ governing bodies for failing to take harsher action against Moscow when a state-sponsored doping scheme was uncovered in 2016.
In the wake of the scandal Russia was officially banned from the Olympics, but was allowed to skirt the ban by sending athletes as part of the ‘Russian Olympic Committee’ under a neutral flag.
‘By not banning Russia for four years, there was no need or desire for cultural change by Russian authorities,’ Koehler said.
Kamila Valieva has been cleared to continue free skating at the Winter Olympics despite testing positive for a banned substance in the wake of a gold medal win. She’s pictured competing on February 7 in an event that won her a gold medal
Valieva is now favorite to win the remaining free skating contests she is set to take part in, although no decision has been made about whether to rescind last week’s gold, until a full investigation is completed
‘The World Anti-Doping Agency, International Olympic Committee and Court of Arbitration for Sport favoured the power and influence of Russian sport over clean sport.’
Valieva, one of Russia’s most-promising Winter Olympians, had carried hopes of multiple gold medals with her when she flew from her training base in Moscow to Beijing for the Games.
She realised one of those hopes a week ago when she won gold in the team figure skating event – becoming the first woman at the Olympics to land a quadruple jump, a feat she repeated twice in the same routine.
But her future was thrown into doubt just a day later when a WADA lab in Sweden detected the presence of trimetazidine in her urine.
The sample had been collected on December 25 during a Russian skating event in St Petersburg, but only tested on February 8. The Russians were keen to know why it took so long for the result to come back.
That result then triggered an automatic suspension by Russia’s anti-doping agency RUSADA, which would have barred Valieva from the rest of the Olympics. But, just a day later, RUSADA overturned the decision when Valieva appealed.
The IOC then stepped in and referred the case to CAS which today decided not to re-instate the suspension.
World skating authorities will decide whether or not the team gold medal will be allowed to stand, in a process that could take months to complete.
Court of Arbitration Director General Matthieu Rieb is pictured Monday after announcing Kamila Valieva would be allowed to continue skating
Valieva is pictured during the ceremony where she was awarded her gold medal, which could now be taken away from her
A medal ceremony for the team skating event has yet to take place as a result of the positive test, and Tygart raised the possibility that Valieva’s coaches could be sued under American laws introduced in the wake of the 2016 doping scandal.
Under those laws, prosecutors can seek fines of up to $1million and 10-year jail sentences against anyone deemed to have interfered with an American athlete’s results due to doping.
The rules could apply in Valieva’s case because she competed against an American team, which took silver. Japan took bronze.
Despite the furore, the Kremlin has thrown its backing behind Valieva with President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov urging her to ‘walk proudly, perform and win’.
Peskov had said he is ‘convinced’ the positive test is the result of a ‘misunderstanding’, while urging everyone to wait for the outcome of the court case.
Olga Yermolina, spokeswoman for the Russian Figure Skating Federation, suggested it was possible there was some kind of foul play by anti-doping authorities in revealing the positive result in the midst of competition.
‘Do you know when the test was taken? Why do you think it was published right now, compare these dates and draw your own conclusions,’ she said.
Stanislav Pozdnyakov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, added: ‘I have serious questions about the time that passed between 25 December, when the sample was submitted in St Petersburg, and 8 February, when it was made public.
‘According to the international standards for WADA laboratories, the deadline for uploading the A sample is 20 days from the receipt of the sample in the laboratory.
‘The fact that it took almost a month to get from St Petersburg to Stockholm looks very strange.
‘This raises very serious questions for me, and it looks very much like someone was holding the sample until after the figure skating team competition was over.’
But both Russia and Olympic Chiefs Will be watching anxiously to see you have a 15-year-old Will cope under intense international scrutiny following the controversy when she takes to the ice again tomorrow to go for a singles skating gold.
Source: Daily Mail