Known as the ‘Snow Queen’, International Skating Union coach of the year Tutberidze has a fearsome reputation for churning out champions at an extraordinary rate via her Sambo-70 school, but questions about her methods and the long-term impact on her young charges , many of whom have retired early with injury, have been raised.
The Russian, whose daughter Diana Davis competes for the ROC in the ice dance competition tonight, makes no excuses for her harsh regime, telling Channel One in December that: “I prefer to tell my athletes the truth, because they hear flattery from others. It’s like a war – give it all and take it all.”
Yesterday the hashtag “shame on Tutberidze” started trending on Twitter as news of Valieva’s positive drugs test emerged, while Katarine Witt, Germany’s two-time Olympic champion, wrote that “the responsible adults should be banned from the sport forever!!! What they knowingly did to her, if true, cannot be surpassed in inhumanity and makes my athlete’s heart cry infinitely.”
On Saturday, Olympic officials, in response to whether the IOC was doing enough to protect young athletes, said they would welcome a closer investigation into the work and support provided by doctors, coaches and family members.
“Entourage has in the past been overlooked,” said spokesperson Mark Adams. When pushed on when a resolution will be found to whether Valieva will be able to continue competing, Adams said he was “as certain as I can be” that it would happen before her competition on Tuesday, while he also referenced Rusada’s claim that the delay in Valieva receiving her positive result this week, after the sample was taken on Christmas Day, it was due to coronavirus and the impact on the Stockholm laboratory. “I had understood that there were some issues around Covid but I don’t know about the exact delivery of the sample,” he said.
Elsewhere senior IOC member Dick Pound said Russia may need an Olympic “timeout” after Valieva’s case threw the country’s doping history back into the spotlight.
Russian athletes are already not competing under their flag while carrying the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) on their uniforms following imposed sanctions for the widespread doping exposed after the Sochi Games.
“The Russians don’t help themselves because they have been absolutely unrepentant,” said Pound. “They won’t admit anything, they appeal every single decision.
“I think the approach has probably been too lenient to allow them to compete as the Russian Olympic Committee.”
He added: “At a certain point if they are absolutely incorrigible you end up with the position of taking a country timeout. We could say we can help you. You’ve got a problem. We can concentrate on it. Take a timeout for one or two or three Olympic Games until you get this under control.”
Valieva spent 40 minutes on the ice for practice today, including going through her stunningly-beautiful short program to In Memoriam to Kirill Richter.
There was one tumble, as opposed to the three yesterday, with the Russian youngster heading to Tutberidze afterwards for an emotional embrace. With the legal outcome pending, it could have been her last outing on the ice in Beijing.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.