Kamila Valieva can compete but will not receive medals
The Russian figure skating star at the center of doping issues at the Beijing Olympics will be allowed to continue competing despite failing a doping test weeks ago, but officials won’t hold a handover ceremony prizes nor will they give medals in the events she will win until her case. is resolved.
The International Olympic Committee has taken the extraordinary step of warning that the athlete, 15-year-old Kamila Valieva, will not be stepping onto the podium, like other medalists in her events, due to lingering doubts over her eligibility. Valieva has become a face of the Games by helping her Russian team win a previous competition, and is widely seen as the favorite to win the women’s singles event which starts on Tuesday.
“If Ms. Valieva finishes among the top three competitors in the women’s singles skating competition, no flower ceremony and medal ceremony will take place during the Winter Olympics,” the Olympic committee said in a statement. communicated. He also confirmed that no ceremony will take place during the Games for the team event which Russia won last week.
He said he would hold ‘dignified medal ceremonies once Ms Valieva’s case is concluded’.
The IOC’s decision came hours after a panel of arbitrators, ruling on a narrow procedural point, allowed Valieva to continue competing in Beijing, saying it would be unfair and cause “irreparable harm” to Valieva if she was excluded from the competition. The IOC had asked the jury to reinstate a suspension that would have kept her out of competition.
In a practice session half an hour after the decision, Valieva performed her usual array of jumps and spins impeccably as more than a hundred reporters watched. She left the rink, carrying her favorite stuffed rabbit, without speaking to reporters.
While the ruling on her eligibility to compete by a panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport means that Valieva can begin her quest for a second gold medal, questions are already looming over her performance and the Russian team, as well as the system designed to ensure that athletes participating in major world competitions are clean.
The arbitration panel ruled on a narrow question: Did Russia act improperly when it lifted Valieva’s suspension last week just a day after imposing it? The move effectively paved the way for Valieva to compete in the singles event, but three international organizations – the International Olympic Committee, World Anti-Doping Agency and world skating governing body – immediately challenged it.
In its decision, the panel said it “considered the fundamental principles of fairness, proportionality, irreparable harm and balance of interests” between Valieva and the organizations seeking to ban her from the Games. Also, he noted, Valieva was underage and did not test positive at the Beijing Games, although she may face penalties when her case is reviewed after the Olympics.
The jury was not asked to decide whether Russia should retain the gold medal in the team competition, a prize won thanks to the stunning performances of Valieva. Nor did he consider whether Valieva was guilty of knowingly consuming a prohibited drug. But he questioned the timing of events, saying there were “serious problems with untimely notification of results”.
Matthieu Reeb, the tribunal’s chief executive, announced the decision at a press conference in Beijing on Monday, less than 30 hours before the start of the women’s event. He lamented the delay in processing the sample from Valieva, which was collected on December 25 but not returned – with the positive result, until last Monday – after she began participating in the Games. Reed left the room after making the announcement without answering questions from reporters.
The World Anti-Doping Agency expressed “disappointment” with the decision and said in a statement that the panel ignored specific provisions of the anti-doping code which governs athletes and which required a suspension – even for a teenager.
Minutes after the decision, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee issued a similar statement expressing its own disappointment. Sarah Hirshland, chief executive of the committee, said clean athletes were being denied “the right to know they are competing on a level playing field”.
“We’re disappointed with the messages this sends,” Hirshland said, adding, “This appears to be another chapter in Russia’s systemic and pervasive disregard for clean sport.”
Tricia Smith, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, said she was “extremely disappointed” with the result. Canada took fourth place in the team event, behind the United States and Japan, but could be elevated to bronze if a later decision on the merits of Valieva’s doping case leads to a change in the final order.
Final resolution of Valieva’s eligibility issues could take months to resolve.
Groups angry at the decision to allow him to compete also denounced earlier rulings that allowed Russian athletes to compete in these Games even though their country is banned from them after they were caught orchestrating a doping scheme state sponsored. As part of his punishment, Russia’s name, flag and anthem are banned from the Beijing Games; Russian athletes who have been cleared by their individual sports federations compete under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee.
“Russia has never had an incentive to reform because sports leaders have chosen politics over principle and rebranding over banning,” said Rob Koehler, chief executive of Global Athlete, an advocacy group. athletes.
Valieva tested positive for trimetazidine, a heart medication that may increase endurance. His positive result comes from a urine sample taken from him during the Russian national championships on December 25 but not confirmed by the Stockholm laboratory responsible for testing him for about six weeks.
Russia’s anti-doping agency said it was only informed by the Swedish lab of Valieva’s failed drug test on February 7, the same day it led the Russians to a gold medal. gold in the team event.
“It’s a very complicated and controversial situation,” his coach, Eteri Tutberidze, told Russian state broadcaster Channel One on Saturday. “There are many questions and very few answers.” Despite these unknowns, Tutberidze said “we are absolutely confident that Kamila is innocent and clean.”
During last week’s free program in the team competition, Valieva became the first woman to land a quadruple jump. His performance led the Russians to win the team event, their best performance to date.
In the weeks following the Olympics, however, Valieva’s case will continue and could end up before the Court of Arbitration for Sport for further rulings by new panels.
Because she is only 15, she is recognized as a “protected person” under certain anti-doping rules, her case will be assessed under different standards of proof, and she will face lesser penalties, if any, than the adults.
Those most likely to be punished would be any of his coaches, coaches, and medical staff who may have known about his drug use or provided it to him. The Russian anti-doping agency and WADA said they would investigate these people.
It is also possible that Valieva will only receive a reprimand for using the banned drug or having it in her system.