Winter Olympics: Valieva failed test, IOC to appeal against Russian agency lifting suspension

Russia's Kamila Valieva attends a training session on Feb 11, 2022, prior to the Figure Skating event at the Beining Winter Olympics. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Teen figure skating sensation Kamila Valieva won a gold medal despite having earlier failed a drug test and Olympic officials will fight Russia’s decision to let her compete at the Winter Games, the International Testing Agency (ITA) said on Friday (Feb 11).

Valieva, 15, failed the test collected at the Russian national championships on Dec 25 and the sample returned positive on Feb 8, prompting the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) to impose an automatic provisional suspension, the ITA said in a statement.

Valieva appealed the suspension on Feb 9 and Rusada lifted it, allowing her to continue to compete at the Games. The Russians did not disclose publicly the reason for removing the ban.

She tested positive for Trimetazidine – a metabolic agent that is prescribed for the treatment of angina and vertigo. It is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency because it can increase blood flow efficiency and help endurance.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which said it wanted the matter to be expedited as quickly as possible, will appeal against Rusada's decision with a ruling expected before Tuesday's women's single event.

"The IOC will exercise its right to appeal and not to wait for the reasoned decision by Rusada, because a decision is needed before the next competition the athlete is due to take part in (Women Single Skating, 15 February 2022)," ITA said.

The appeal will be handled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said in a press conference on Friday that the IOC had demanded that a decision be made before Valieva is due to compete again on Tuesday in the women’s singles. “We have a 100 per cent policy against doping,” he added.

Under the rules of the draw, if Valieva's suspension is upheld, the ROC cannot replace her in singles competition because she has already competed in the team event.

The crisis has once again thrust the World Anti-Doping Agency into the spotlight because the result took weeks to be reported.

“Unfortunately I will not be making any comment on this case,” Anton Pohanka, Director of Stockholm’s Doping Control Laboratory at Karolinska University Hospital, the only WADA-accredited lab in Sweden, which reported the findings, told Reuters.

He refused to explain the weeks-long delay for the sample result to be reported, an unusual gap given Russian athletes are competing in their third consecutive Olympics as ROC athletes, without their flag or anthem for state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Sochi Games.

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) on Friday insisted Valieva had the right to compete in Beijing and that her gold medal should stand.

In a statement, it said Valieva has “the right to train and take part in competitions in full without restrictions until the Court of Arbitration for Sport decides otherwise.” It said that since her test was taken before the Games, her gold medal from the figure skating team event should not be “subject to automatic review.” It said it wanted to “draw attention to the fact” that a test Valieva had taken during the Olympics “gave a negative result.”

Russia’s Figure Skating Federation said in a separate statement that it had “no doubt about the honesty and purity of its athlete.” It said it will “make every effort to clarify the circumstances of the incident and provide the athlete with the necessary complete assistance and support.”

The ROC skaters won the team event on Monday, but the medal ceremony was delayed for legal reasons, said the IOC at the time.

Valieva, who had already practised at the rink adjacent to the Capital Indoor Stadium on Thursday, took to the ice again for practice on Friday.

Russian athletes are already competing without their flag and anthem because of sanctions for past doping violations.


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