Winter Olympics: Russian star Valieva cleared by CAS to compete in next event, doping charge unresolved

Kamila Valieva's provisional suspension was lifted by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency on Feb 9, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS, AFP) - Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva will be allowed to compete in the women's singles in figure skating at the Beijing Olympics after a decision by sport's top court CAS on Monday (Feb 14).

However, there will be no medal ceremony for the women’s singles figure skating at the Games if Valieva finishes in the top three, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) added on Monday.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport announced its ruling on an appeal by the IOC, the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and the International Skating Union (ISU) against the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) lifting Valieva's provisional ban after she tested positive for a banned drug last year.

The drug, Trimetazidine, is a drug used to treat angina and other heart-related conditions. It works by increasing blood flow to the heart and limiting rapid swings in blood pressure. It is banned by Wada because it can increase blood flow efficiency and help endurance. The drug is not approved for use in the United States.

Reacting to the decision, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) said it was important to conduct a full and impartial investigation into Valieva’s doping case that has rocked the Games, as her doping charge remained unresolved.

“We do not know how many tears and what moral strength this whole crazy situation has cost Kamila. To go out and train every day with a decision hanging over you, not knowing what will happen tomorrow...

“To force yourself to appear calm in public, allowing your feelings to show only when no one is watching... We don’t know.

"It’s very personal.

“But what we know for sure and what we can definitely do is cheer for her tomorrow, then on Thursday with all the strength of our energy.”

The CAS concluded its hearing on the 15-year-old early on Monday, one day ahead of Valieva's next event - the women's singles, in which she is the favourite for gold. Russia could win all three medals thanks to Valieva’s teammates Alexandra Trusova and Anna Shcherbakova, both 17.

Valieva's sample was collected on Dec 25 at the Russian national championships but the result was only made public on Feb 8, the day after she led the ROC to victory in the team event.

Her provisional suspension was lifted by Rusada on Feb 9.

The case has raised a string of questions, not least why it took six weeks for the test to be processed by a laboratory in Stockholm, which is accredited by Wada.

The CAS cited “exceptional circumstances” for its decision, including her status as a “protected person” – in other words, a minor.

Matthieu Reeb, CAS director general, said in a news conference that a suspension would have caused “serious damage”.

The CAS emphasised the “serious issues of untimely notification of the results” in its decision.

“Such late notification was not her fault, in the middle of the Olympic Winter Games,” the ruling said.

Reeb added: “We would not have this case and I would not be here if these anti-doping test procedures would have been completed in one week or 10 days.”

The CAS ruling did not address the merits of Valieva’s drug case and she could still face punishment at a later date.

Reactions were swift, with US Olympic and Paralympic CEO Sarah Hirshland saying: “We are disappointed by the message this decision sends. It is the collective responsibility of the entire Olympic community to protect the integrity of sport and to hold our athletes, coaches and all involved to the highest of standards.

“Athletes have the right to know they are competing on a level playing field. Unfortunately, today that is being denied.

This appears to be another chapter in the systematic and pervasive disregard for clean sport by Russia.”

The Russian figure skating federation (RFSF) praised the decision, with its president Alexander Gorshkov describing the court’s decision as a “triumph of common sense and justice”. 

Russian athletes are competing in Beijing under a neutral flag due to doping sanctions.

The IOC will respect the court’s decision on Valieva’s participation, spokesman Mark Adams said. He added that the ruling was not a decider of whether she is guilty or not guilty of doping.

No medals yet

While the IOC said there will be no medal ceremony for the women’s singles figure skating at the Games if Valieva finishes in the top three, a concrete decision has not been made on the medal ceremony for the team competition. 

The United States won the silver, with Japan taking the bronze and Canada fourth.

Adams said in a Monday media briefing that the medals ceremony for the team competition "will not come in the next hours or days".

"That will not be probably sorted out during these Games and it's something that's regrettable but we have to follow the process of CAS and the legal process," he said.

"It's a dilemma we are all in and it's something we're not happy with.

"This (CAS) specific decision is about whether she can compete or not.

"All the other issues will have to be discussed further into the Games and that will include the presentation of the medals to the teams.

"This will not be sorted out by this (CAS) decision."

However, the Kremlin on Monday said it hoped the ROC would soon be awarded their gold medal and that the Russian sports authorities were working actively on the issue.

The Kremlin also added that it hoped Russia, whose athletes are competing in their third consecutive Olympics without their flag and national anthem as part of doping sanctions, would be able to compete as normal at the next Olympics.

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