‘Kamila is clean’: Valieva’s coach speaks out in aniticipation of Cas decision

15-year-oldRussian figure skater to learn her fate after suspected positive doping test

The Russian coach of the brilliant 15-year-old skater at the eye of a doping storm in Beijing has broken her silence to insist that Kamila Valieva is "clean and innocent".

Eteri Tutberidze admitted that the situation surrounding her skater was “very controversial and difficult”, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport expected to rule within 24 hours whether Valieva can compete in the individual event on Tuesday after she tested positive for a banned heart drug.

However, Tutberidze told Russian state television that whatever Cas’s ruling, she believed that Valieva had done nothing wrong. “I want to say that I am absolutely sure that Kamila is innocent and clean. For us, this is not a theorem, but an axiom, it does not need to be proved. We are with our athletes, in trouble and in joy, to the end.”

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 won a brilliant team gold, has been allowed to train while she appeals her provisional suspension. She looked calm and focused at practice, producing a flawless rendition of her short programme to the music of 'In Memoriam' by Krill Richter. Coming off the ice, Sia's 'I'm Unstoppable' blasted through the arena.

READ MORE

A spokeswoman for the Figure Skating Federation of Russia told state-owned news agency RIA that Cas expected by four pm Irish time on Saturday. Meanwhile over the last 24 hours attention in Russia has begun to focus on Tutberidze, who is known for her uncompromising methods.

After Valieva’s positive test for trimetazidine, a drug usually used to treat angina, the hashtag ‘shame on you, T utberidze’ has been trending on Twitter. However, Valieva made a point of hugging her coach during practice on Saturday before walking through the mixed zone, accompanied by two burly minders. There was even a smile when she received shouts of encouragement from the Russian media.

Speaking to Russian station Channel One, Tutberidze raised questions as to why it had taken so long for Valieva’s positive test to emerge, given it was conducted on Christmas Day but only reported by a Swedish laboratory on February 8th. It has since emerged that the delay was caused by an outbreak of Covid at the lab in January. However Tutberidze did not sound convinced.

“It is very unclear why an athlete with a dubious doping test on December 25th was admitted to the Olympic Games,” she said. “Either this is a fatal coincidence, or this is a very competent plan. I really hope that our leaders will not abandon us, defend our rights and prove our innocence.”

Tutberidze, who has previously coached former Olympic gold medallists Yulia Lipnitskaya and Alina Zagitova, added: “I don’t know who and what decides, but I hope that justice will somehow prevail,” she added.

Earlier the International Olympic Committee said it would welcome an anti-doping investigation into Valieva's "entourage" after the 15-year-old Russian's positive drugs test. "Entourage has been overlooked in the past," IOC spokesman Mark Adams told a news conference on Saturday. "The IOC, as ever, would welcome investigation into the entourage in all cases where it's relevant. In this case, as in all cases, we would welcome a strong line from the World Anti-Doping Agency on that."

That view was supported by double Olympic figure skating champion Katarina Witt, who insisted that Valieva was not responsible for her positive drugs test. Writing on her Facebook page Witt hailed Valieva as a “young girl and wonder child, who is just enchanting the whole world with her sportsmanship and grace, but she is not to blame here.”

“This scandal is a dramatic cut to her young and promising career and I sincerely hope that enough people are by her side and protect her so that she doesn’t break,” she added.“Kamila has learned her quadruple jumps with infinite diligence and courage. No doping would have helped her to land these! And especially not with their artistic radiation! If anything, the adults responsible should be locked up for sports forever!”

Meanwhile Dick Pound, a long-standing member of the IOC, questioned whether it was time for Russia to take an Olympic ‘timeout’. “At a certain point if they are absolutely incorrigible you end up with the position of take a country timeout,” said Pound. “We could say we can help you. You got a problem. We can concentrate on it. Take a time out for one or two, or three Olympic Games until you get this under control.”

- Guardian