Fifteen-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva faces being thrown out of the Winter Olympics after the International Testing Agency confirmed she tested positive for a banned heart medication in December.
Valieva’s positive test was confirmed on Tuesday, one day after she starred in the Russian Olympic Committee’s victory in the team event in Beijing. Her team successfully challenged a provisional suspension, and she was practising again on Friday when the ITA ended days of speculation.
Both the ITA, on behalf of the International Olympic Association, and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have launched separate challenges to the lifting of the provisional suspension, with a view to determining Valieva’s continued participation in the Games. She is the overwhelming favourite to win the women’s individual competition, which starts on Tuesday.
Valieva’s situation is complicated by a WADA ruling which considers those under 16 ‘protected persons’, meaning the usual rule of strict liability does not necessarily apply, and generally implying the athlete concerned must remain anonymous.
However, the ITA effectively claimed it had been forced to issue its clarification due to the failure of the media to adhere to that same principle, following days of speculation that originally emanated from the delay in the awarding of medals for the team event.
Citing what it said it accepted was “the necessity for official information due to heightened public interest,” the ITA confirmed that Valieva submitted a positive sample for trimetazidine during the Russian National Championships in December.
Following confirmation of the positive test by a WADA-accredited laboratory in Stockholm last week, the ITA said it “immediately informed the athlete that the provisional suspension imposed on her by (Russian Anti-Doping Agency) RUSADA is binding upon the IOC and the athlete is prevented from competing, training, coaching, or participating in any activity, during the Olympic Winter Games.”
However, Valieva successfully appealed to RUSADA on the grounds of what the ITA said was a “reasoned decision” that is yet to be disclosed, thus allowing her to remain at the Games.
Both the ITA and WADA are appealing the lifting of the provisional suspension through the Court of Arbitration for Sport. WADA said in a statement it is doing so because “the (World Anti-Doping) Code has not been correctly applied in this case”.
International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams admitted it was crucial for a resolution “as quickly as possible” given Valieva’s scheduled participation next week.
The medals for the team event, during which Valieva became the first female figure skater to land quads in an Olympic Games and neared her own world record score, remain unrewarded.
The ITA said the decision on the result can only be made following analysis of the athlete’s B sample and what it said would be “a final decision on the full merits of the case”.
Trimetazidine, which increases blood flow to the heart, was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances in 2014. Chinese swimmer Sun Yang and Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare are among those sanctioned for its use.
In a statement published on the Russian Figure Skating Federation’s official website, the Russian Olympic Committee confirmed the broad details of the case, adding that Valieva had subsequently provided negative tests.
“The doping test of the athlete who gave a positive result does not apply to the period of the Olympic Games,” the statement read.
“At the same time, the athlete repeatedly passed doping tests before and after December 25, 2021, including already in Beijing during the figure skating tournament. All results are negative.”
For that reason, the statement argued, the results from the team competition should not be affected. It added: “The (ROC) is taking comprehensive measures to protect the rights and interests of the members of ROC team and to keep the honestly-won gold medal.”
Russia was banned for state-sponsored doping in 2017, and since then athletes have had to compete as the Russian Olympic Committee. The Russian flag and Russian anthem are banned during the Beijing Games.
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