The future of the 15-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva at these Winter Olympics remains in limbo despite the Independent Testing Agency (ITA) confirming that she tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine on Christmas Day.
Valieva, who captured the hearts of the world when she became the first female skater to perform a quad at the Games as the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) won a brilliant team gold at the start of this week, has appealed her provisional suspension and hopes to compete again in the individual competition next Tuesday.
However whether she is allowed to compete or not – along with whether the ROC team can keep its team gold – is still being contested in a courtroom. Valieva was back practising on Friday, when she looked understandably nervous and fell three times during her free skate routine.
Afterwards she covered her face when walking through the mixed zone and didn’t answer questions. However when asked by a journalist whether she was clean and had taken drugs, she appeared to shake her head.
Olga Yermolina, spokeswoman for the Russian Figure Skating Federation, said that Valiyeva’s training had gone worse than usual because she was “nervous” and “in a bad mood”.
“It is understandable,” she said. “She is not in an information vacuum.”
Earlier the Independent Testing Agency had confirmed that a sample that was taken when Valieva competed at the Russian Championships on Christmas Day had been found to have trimetazidine, a banned heart medication, in it.
But the results of Valieva’s sample, which was taken by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada), were only reported as positive by a Swedish laboratory on Tuesday February 8th. That was a day after Valieva helped the Russian Olympic Committee to gold in the team figure-skating.
She is allowed to practise after she challenged her provisional suspension and a Rusada committee ruled in her favour. However that decision is now being challenged by the International Olympic Committee, and her legal case is ongoing.
In a long and detailed statement, the ITA stressed that Valieva is “a ‘Protected Person’ under the World Anti-Doping Code – this status applies to persons under the age of 16.”
The ITA added: “To state the facts chronologically, a sample from the athlete was collected under the testing authority and results management authority of the Rusada on December 25th 2021, during the 2022 Russian Figure Skating Championships in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
“The Wada-accredited laboratory of Stockholm, Sweden, reported that the sample had returned an Adverse Analytical Finding for the non-specified prohibited substance trimetazidine on February 8th 2022. Following this, the athlete was provisionally suspended by Rusada with immediate effect.”
The ITA also confirmed that a provisional suspension would usually prohibit Valieva from competing, training, coaching, or participating in any activity, during the Winter Olympics.
However Valieva can continue to train as she challenged Rusada’s decision on February 9th. Later that day Rusada’s disciplinary committee decided to lift her provisional suspension, thus allowing her to continue her participation in Beijing.
“The reasoned decision, including the grounds for which the provisional suspension was lifted, will be issued shortly to all concerned parties,” the ITA said.
The IOC has now exercised its right to appeal and not to wait for the reasoned decision by Rusada, as it says a ruling is needed before the next competition Valieva is due to take part in.
However Stanislav Pozdnyakov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, raised concerns about the length of time it had taken for the sample to be made public.
“I have serious questions about the time that passed between December 25th, when the Valiyeva sample was submitted in St Petersburg, and February 8th, when it was made public,” he said.
“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.”
At Friday’s IOC briefing, spokesman Mark Adams refused to be drawn on the specifics of the case but said he hoped it would be settled sooner rather than later. “What is clear is we want to expedite this as quickly as possible, it’s a legal issue and they can be complicated. Legal cases are difficult but it’s important that people get full justice,” said Adams.
“For all concerned, not just the Russian athlete, we need a resolution and we are working as fast as we can to get that.
“Such cases are not helpful to the Games, these cases need to be prosecuted properly and due process needs to be applied. People need to have confidence in the decisions taken.” - Guardian