The “devastating” Kamila Valieva scandal has shone a light on urgent issues around child participation in sport, according to former American figure skater Adam Rippon.
In an interview with Eurosport, Rippon claimed Valieva was a "victim", hit out at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for going easy on Russia, said the adults around the athlete “completely failed her” and called for figure skaters to be barred from the Olympics until turning 18.
The doping scandal erupted last week when it was revealed that 15-year-old Valieva had tested positive for banned heart drug trimetazidine in a sample taken on December 25 – with the news erupting barely 48 hours after she had propelled the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) to gold in the team event.
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A Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) committee swiftly lifted her provisional suspension, prompting the IOC, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Skating Union (ISU) to launch a challenge at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
But in a decision that sent shockwaves through sport, CAS ruled that Valieva could continue competing. CAS said the ruling was specifically related to whether she could compete at the Games, with a further decision on whether she has breached doping regulations to come at a later date.
Valieva returned to the ice on Tuesday to deliver an event-leading score in the individual short program, but errors in her free skate on Thursday meant she missed out on a medal and her Olympic Games ended in tearful scenes.
“I think Kamila is a victim in this. But I also think every other girl in that event is a victim of Kamila,” Rippon told Eurosport before the free skate competition.
“It feels like a completely unfair situation. It feels like we're making accommodations for somebody who didn't follow the rules. That person is also unfortunately 15 years old. And that makes me think also, as a coach, how that skater got those medications.
“It makes me think that those adults around her completely failed her. It's a 15-year-old girl. It's a shame that this is her Olympic experience.”

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Rippon coaches American skater Mariah Bell, who finished 10th in the ladies’ single competition, as Valieva’s compatriot Anna Shcherbakova claimed gold.
The former Olympian said that coaches have a responsibility to uphold their athletes' best interests. The IOC has an Athletes’ Entourage Commission and has already pledged to investigate the team around Valieva following her positive test.
“We created an entourage commission. We realised some time ago this is very, very important,” said IOC spokesman Adams after Valieva's positive test was confirmed. “All of the people – the coaches, doctors and everyone around the athlete – it’s important they have their responsibility too. We don’t just look at athletes involved in these cases, we do look at the entourage, it is very important.”
Rippon added: “As a coach, I've learned that the most important thing is when your athlete is done and they're retiring. How did you leave them? And how did they leave the sport? And what is your relationship after? What did you do to their life moving forward?
“I think every coach should think about how do they want their athletes to leave the sport and what impact are they going to have on this athlete's life? Because you're an athlete for a blip of a second, and then you have your whole life.
“Sports are incredible. And I think like we need to focus on that. And I think like as a coach, your main objective is how do I input all of this information to my athletes so that when they move on from sport they either want to stay involved in it because they love it so much or they can take all of these tools and be successful in whatever they do.
“And I think that needs to be readdressed in a new focus. That winning is everything in sport, but winning at what cost? Because we're seeing what the cost is. And I don't think it’s worth the price.”

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Rippon then shifted his attention to the IOC and said they had not been tough enough on Russia.
Russia were banned from international sporting events for four years by WADA in 2019 after a series of investigations into widespread state-sponsored doping – although the ban was slashed to two years by CAS.
However, the IOC elected to permit athletes not tainted by drugs scandals to compete under the Olympic flag as the Russian Olympic Committee.
“The sanctions put on Russia, from the IOC, were not strict enough at all. And that's why we're seeing the repercussions of it right now,” said Rippon. “Because they did not take the proper measures to punish the Russian Federation, we're now seeing a 15-year-old girl in the middle of a media circus that this is the IOC’s fault. Because you didn't punish Russia. They've learned nothing from this.”
When asked about whether the IOC was tough enough on Russia during a Valieva-dominated press conference earlier in the Games, spokesman Mark Adams said: “Yes, we took every action that we thought was important, always remembering that the emphasis was on the individuals.
“We don’t have mass justice against groups of people, we take out individuals who have been proven guilty. It’s a principle of law in your country that individuals are allowed to be tried individually. We wouldn’t try a whole class of people and chuck them out on the basis of that, we give people the right to be innocent until proven guilty.”

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Valieva was partly allowed to skate in the women’s short program because her age gave her extra rights as a “protected person”, further fuelling clamour to raise the minimum age to compete at an Olympics.
Some skating officials are pushing for the age to be raised in the sport from 15 to 17 for Milan-Cortina 2026 – but Rippon is hoping they go even further and not only because of his doping worries.
“I think if there's a possibility, which we're witnessing right now, that you're too young to suffer consequence, you're too young to be here,” said Rippon.
“I think what we see in so many other sports where young ladies, young girls are successful is that some people abuse that system. And they abuse these children and they take advantage of their dream, talent, by you know: ‘do this, or this is not going to happen’.”
He continued: “I think what has to happen is that they need to raise the age limit of how old you can be to compete in the Olympic Games.15/16-year-old girls who skate and have to retire because there's another one right behind them or they have a back problem or an eating disorder. And it's just it's not it's not a healthy environment for a young girl to develop.
“They're training so hard and overtraining and getting into these really bad situations with injuries and all of that that I think in order for the sport to move forward, we want to have more longevity.
“We want to have the athletes feel safe. And we want them to be in conditions where they can skate and compete for as long as possible.
“I think if the age limit was raised to 18, it's a completely different method of coaching. Because a young girl from the age of 15 to 18 will be going through puberty, she'll have to get used to her own body, it's going to be a whole different kind of experience.
“[It’s] something we really need to push for. 17 is a joke, changing the age to 17. It's got to be 18.”
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