Kamila Valieva doping scandal: Timeline, CAS verdict explained, will Russia lose Winter Olympics medals?
Fifteen-year-old Kamila Valieva is at the centre of a doping storm at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Valieva tested positive for trimetazidine on December 25 – only for the findings to be reported the day after she had led the Russian Olympic Committee to gold in the team figure skating competition. But after CAS cleared her to compete in the women’s singles, we ask: what happens now?
Tearful Valieva pulls to side after fall during figure skating training
The Beijing Olympics is dealing with a major controversy after teenage figure skating sensation Kamila Valieva failed a drugs test – only for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to rule that she can continue competing.
Valieva, 15, made history as she propelled the Russia Olympic Committee (ROC) to the team title with flawless performances in the short programme and free skate.
Here’s a timeline of how the protracted doping scandal has unfolded:
December 25: Valieva is drug tested at the Russian National Championships in St Petersburg. Little do we know but this sample, taken by RUSADA, will soon become the most talked about in winter sport.
February 6: Valieva makes her bow in Beijing, dominating the short programme to hand ROC a maximum 10 points in the team event.
February 7: Valieva captures hearts again with a stunning performance in the free skate, becoming the first woman to land a quad at an Olympics. It confirms ROC’s gold… or so we think.
‘Perfect!’ – 15-year-old Valieva makes history for second day in a row at Olympics
February 8: Behind the scenes, a positive doping test is returned by a WADA-accredited lab in Sweden – despite the test being taken almost seven weeks prior. The ceremony to award ROC gold, the United States silver and Japan bronze is pulled from its scheduled slot.
February 9: The IOC confirms that a “legal issue” is preventing the medal ceremony from taking place. Whispers start to spread that the problem centres on 15-year-old Valieva. Meanwhile, Valieva lodges an appeal and a RUSADA committee rules in her favour. She is free to compete.
February 10: Russian newspapers RBC and Kommersant report that Valieva has tested positive for banned substance trimetazidine. Uncertainty surrounds her status at the Games, but she takes part in training.
February 11: The International Testing Agency (ITA) confirms Valieva has failed a drugs test. Valieva, still preparing for the women’s singles, falls three times while rehearsing to Ravel's Bolero and refuses to answer questions from the media. ROC insist she "has the right to train and take part in competitions in full without restrictions", with it later confirmed that her continued participation will be decided by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
February 13: Valieva’s case is heard by CAS, with the IOC, WADA and International Skating Union (ISU) all contesting RUSADA’s decision to lift the provisional suspension.
'Allowing her to skate creates an enormous precedent' - Marchei on Valieva competing
WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT AFTER CAS VERDICT?
Valieva is now set to compete in the women’s singles. The short programme is on Tuesday Feb 15 (10:00 GMT) before the free skate on Thursday Feb 17 (10:00 GMT).
RUSADA’s defence centred on the fact that positive test did “not apply to the period of the Olympic Games” and it said Valieva had returned negative tests either side of the positive result on December 25.
CAS agreed and ruled she could compete, stating that there were "exceptional circumstances" because of her age and delayed notification of the result.
However this is far from over. A decision on whether Valieva is in breach of doping regulations will be taken at a later date – meaning Russia could yet be stripped of their team title and Valieva of an individual medal, should she finish on the podium in the singles.
WHAT ABOUT THE MEDAL CEREMONIES?
In another twist, the IOC ruled that medal ceremonies for events where Valieva finishes in the top three will not happen until after the Winter Olympics – meaning the Russian's rivals effectively have to hope she falters.
Relaying the thoughts of the athletes, Eurosport expert and two-time figure skating Olympian Valentina Marchei said: “All you can do is to hope that the favourite of the event, the unbeatable girl, has to fall multiple times in order for you to fulfil that dream. Is that Olympic spirit? Is that what the Olympics are about?"
WHAT IS TRIMETAZIDINE AND WHY IS IT BANNED?
Trimetazidine is an agent typically used in the treatment of angina – chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart – and other heart conditions. It increases blood flow to the heart and limits rapid fluctuations in blood pressure.
It has been on WADA’s banned list since 2014 and is banned both in and out of competition, with the drug said to aid endurance.
It’s not the first time it has appeared in sport. At PyeongChang 2018, Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva was booted out of the Games after testing positive for trimetazidine, while it received high-profile attention in 2014 when China’s Olympic swimming champion Sun Yang was suspended after a positive test.
‘Wasn’t it beautiful!’ – 15-year-old Valieva makes history at Winter Olympics
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO HER COACH/ADULTS AROUND HER?
The IOC set up an Athletes’ Entourage Commission to empower the people around an athlete – effectively sharing responsibility around an athlete’s team.
“We created an entourage commission. We realised some time ago this is very, very important,” said IOC spokesman Mark 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.”
Valieva’s case is extra significant because she is a minor at 15. At this stage, it is obviously not clear what the ramifications will be for Valieva’s coach and the other adult members of her team.
When asked about the IOC’s position on doping, Adams said: “I hardly find it necessary to restate it, but we have a 100% policy against doping and clearly we pursue all doping cases to the end.
“But clearly in this specific case, it is an active case and we are waiting for it to be fully seen to the end. It would be wrong of anyone to make any comment on this, actually particularly because we are talking about a particular case of a minor, I think people need to be a little bit careful with their wild speculation on an active case.”
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COULD ALL THE ROC TEAM LOSE THEIR MEDALS?
If Valieva is subsequently found guilty of doping, this seems the most likely outcome.
Although Russia won the team event by a huge margin, if Valieva’s maximum haul of 20 points were removed then ROC would drop from gold to bronze – promoting the US into first place. Japan and Canada, who finished third and fourth respectively, will also be following this case with interest.
Anyway, there is a precedent for disqualification from athletics (although different sporting federations have different rules). We now refer to Usain Bolt as an eight-time Olympic champion, rather than nine-time, after his Jamaican 4x100m relay team-mate Nesta Carter failed a retrospective drugs test following the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE IOC, THE RUSSIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE AND RUSSIA?
Russia were banned from international sporting events by WADA in 2019 after a series of investigations into widespread state-sponsored doping. However, the IOC permitted athletes not tainted by drugs scandals to compete under the Olympic flag as the Russian Olympic Committee.
When asked about whether the IOC has been tough enough on Russia, 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.
“So yes we took tough action, you’ll see that action is still in place here, we don’t have the Russian team competing in the same way – they’re not allowed to have the flag or the anthem or many other things. It’s quite a tough sanction which is continuing.
“I think we did take a tough action but appropriate action. The idea of the central principle of the IOC is that we have to be politically neutral, that we don’t bow to any side in these cases and we try to take a principled decision. And the principled decision in this case was to respect the rights of individual athletes and to allow them... to compete if they should be able to.”
“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 athletes, coaches and all involved to the highest standards,” began the statement.
“Athletes have the right to know they are competing on a level playing field. Unfortunately, today that right is being denied. This appears to be another chapter in the systemic and pervasive disregard for clean sport by Russia.
“We know this case is not yet closed and we call on everyone in the Olympic Movement to continue to fight for clean sport on behalf of athletes around the world.”
Hirshland's damning assessment follows that of US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) chief Travis Tygart, who suggested the US could prosecute the Russians under the American Rodchenkov Act (RADA).
The RADA bill empowers American prosecutors to pursue any athlete who has ‘robbed’ an American athlete of a result. They can seek fines of up to $1 million and jail terms of up to 10 years, even if the defendant is not American.
"You cannot make it up. We are living in the twilight zone. Clean athletes deserve better, and this poor young woman deserves better. She's getting chewed up (for doping) on top of being abused by the Russian state system," said Tygart.
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