Valieva’s doping case on the docket at Beijing Olympics

With her doping case still to be decided, Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva broke down in tears Saturday after an emotional practice session at the Olympics.

The 15-year-old Russian’s status at the Olympics is unclear after testing positive for a banned substance. She won a gold medal in the team event five days ago and is next scheduled to compete in the women’s competition on Tuesday.

She would be the favorite for another gold medal if she is not banned from competing while under investigation.

Valieva fell during practice on a triple axel — a jump she typically executes without a problem — while doing a run-through of her short program. She later landed two combos, a triple flip-triple toe loop and a triple lutz-triple toe loop before skating to the boards and giving her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, an emotional hug.

Earlier Saturday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport confirmed it has received appeals from both the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency challenging Valieva’s right to compete. She was given an automatic interim ban by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency after testing positive, but it was quickly lifted.

The IOC said Saturday it wants the dispute to be resolved as soon as possible, but it was unclear when the court, known as CAS, would decide on the case. CAS has two special Olympic courts working in Beijing

“It was sending a signal that we want this solved as quickly as it can be,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said when asked why the Olympic body got involved in an appeal that it would normally leave to WADA.

“Strictly speaking we didn’t have to,” Adams said at the daily news briefing, “but it does impact quite a lot on the Olympic Games here in Beijing and we thought it was important that we were involved in the process.”

The legal process is unusually urgent because of an unprecedented sequence of events and Valieva’s status as a minor, which gives her protections in the anti-doping rule book.

Valieva tested positive for trimetazidine, an angina medication banned in sports, in a sample given on Dec. 25 in St. Petersburg, where she won the Russian national championships.

That sample was the responsibility of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, known as RUSADA. It was sent to a WADA-approved laboratory in Stockholm, Sweden, for analysis.

On Monday — hours after Valieva’s skating helped the Russians win the Olympic team event — the Stockholm lab notified RUSADA the test was positive. It is unclear if the holiday periods in Russia and Sweden, or a January arise from omicron variant cases of COVID-19 in Stockholm, held up the analysis.

RUSADA said Friday it was told the delay was caused by the coronavirus with lab staff in Sweden having been ill or in isolation.

The test result sparked a rapid chain of events at the Olympics, with Valieva automatically put under a provisional ban by RUSADA. The team event medal ceremony scheduled for late Tuesday was pulled from the calendar.

Before Valieva’s identity was confirmed, RUSADA overturned the interim ban, allowing her to return to the ice Thursday morning for practice as speculation and confusion mounted.

Days of hectic legal talks involving Russian and Olympic officials, the International Skating Union, WADA and the International Testing Agency — which runs the IOC’s anti-doping program at the Olympics — led to the appeals being filed to CAS.

The CAS panel of three judges will consider only the IOC-WADA request to re-impose the interim ban on Valieva. That would effectively end her Olympics.

The full investigation of the doping case — how it happened and if Valieva should be exonerated of any blame — is for RUSADA to handle and could take months. That could also be appealed to CAS, which is normally based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Valieva’s gold medal from the team event could be impacted by the RUSADA investigation. If a backdated doping was imposed, the ISU could alter the team event standings. The United States team, which finished second to the Russians, would be in line to be upgraded to gold medals.

Because Valieva is only 15, her ultimate penalty could be as little as a reprimand. Her entourage of coaches and doctors face more scrutiny because the World Anti-Doping Code mandates they are automatically put under investigation.

The IOC said it is hoping to have the entire case resolved before the Olympics close on Feb. 20, which would allow for the medal ceremony in the team event to take place in Beijing.


AP Sports Writers Dave Skretta and James Ellingworth contributed to this report.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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