Teenage figure skater Kamila Valieva has become one of the faces of Beijing 2022, but as the Winter Olympics nears its conclusion the spotlight is likely to remain on the 15-year-old and her entourage for the forerseeable future.
A blame game has already broken out between the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) over the drugs test controversy surrounding Valieva, who completed her competition run at the Winter Olympics on Thursday.
The 15-year-old finished in fourth place in the women’s individual figure skating event on Thursday, leaving the ice in tears after falling and faltering during jumps in her routine, despite having previously been the favorite to take gold.
Before being cleared to take part in the women’s individual figure skating competition, Valieva was suspended by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) on February 8, although the body lifted her suspension the next day following a hearing.
WADA, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Skating Union (ISU) then subsequently filed an appeal against the lifting of the ban.
Kamila Valieva: What happens next?
However, CAS cleared Valieva for competition, saying she would suffer “irreparable harm” if not allowed to compete, citing the “exceptional circumstances” of her being a minor.
Given the pressures she was facing, many commentators have questioned why she was cleared to skate, with former US Olympic figure skater Polina Edmunds saying it was “devastating that she was put in this situation.”
CAS published a 41-page document on Thursday outlining its reasons for allowing Valieva to compete, notably blaming WADA for the way events had unfolded in the teenager’s case.
“It is unfortunate that this episode occurred to mar this Athlete’s, and other Athletes’, Olympic Winter Games experience,” said CAS.
“This has been the result of the relevant anti-doping bodies to ensure timely analysis of pre-Games samples, and failing to ensure that pending cases are resolved before the Olympic Winter Games commence.”
In a sample taken in December, prior to the Olympics, Valieva tested positive for the banned heart medication trimetazidine, a drug commonly used to treat angina and which experts say can enhance endurance by increasing blood flow to the heart.
However, the result was only analyzed and reported to RUSADA in February. Valieva was then suspended the day after she led the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) to gold in the figure skating team event on February 7 when she became the first woman to land a quadruple jump in a Winter Olympic Games.
RUSADA did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
“Had that all been accomplished on time and in conformity with the time limits recommended by WADA in its International Standards for Laboratories, then a decision on the merits of Ms Valieva’s case and her status could have been made well before the Games started, and before her competition experience and that of other athletes was affected adversely,” said CAS.
Chair of the IOC Disciplinary Commission, Denis Oswald, told reporters on Tuesday that Valieva had blamed her positive drug test on a mix-up with her grandfather’s drugs, as he uses trimetazidine for his heart condition.
On Friday, WADA responded to the CAS report, saying the court had ignored “the clear and unambiguous terms of the 2021 World Anti-Doping Code (Code) regarding the criteria for lifting a mandatory provisional suspension” by allowing Valieva to compete.
WADA said the “re-writing of the Code” to make exceptions for protected persons including minors “risks undermining the integrity of sporting competition and the confidence of athletes that they are competing on a level playing field.”
The Anti-Doping Code underwent three rounds of consultation with anti-doping stakeholders and athletes before being “unanimously adopted” in November 2019, according to WADA’s statement.
“It is surprising and of serious concern to WADA that a CAS Panel would see fit to depart from the clear terms of the Code,” said WADA, adding that the ruling in Valieva’s case “sets a dangerous precedent.”
WADA also questioned why RUSADA didn’t “flag the high-priority nature” of Valieva’s test to the laboratory involved, despite being informed that a Covid-19 outbreak among staff was causing delays in testing samples.
Global Athlete, an athlete-led group working for change across the sporting world, called Valieva’s positive drug test “evidence of abuse of a minor,” adding that it was “unacceptable” for a 15-year-old to be subject to “grave physical and psychological risks.”
The IOC announced after the initial outbreak of the scandal that there would be no medal ceremony for the team event until the doping investigation was concluded and it was decided whether the ROC would keep their gold medal.
WADA has said it will be investigating the 15-year-old’s entourage – the adults responsible for her skating and welfare.
CNN has reached out to the ROC for comment from Valieva’s coach Eteri Tutberidze and ROC team doctor Filipp Shvetsky but has not received a response.
“These (past few) days have been very difficult for me,” Valieva told Russia’s Channel One earlier this week, after training. “It’s as if I don’t have any emotions left. I am happy, but at the same time, I am emotionally tired.”
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