Kamila Valieva disqualified in Olympic doping case, Russians set to lose team gold to USA

Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva disqualified from 2022 Winter Olympics, Russians to be stripped of gold medal.

Published : Jan 29, 2024 19:51 IST , LAUSANNE, Switzerland - 5 MINS READ

FILE PHOTO: Kamila Valieva in action.
FILE PHOTO: Kamila Valieva in action. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

FILE PHOTO: Kamila Valieva in action. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva was disqualified from the 2022 Winter Olympics on Monday, almost two years after her doping case caused turmoil at the Beijing Games.

The verdict from the Court of Arbitration for Sport means the Russians are set to be stripped of the gold medal in figure skating’s team event. The United States finished second and is set to be named Olympic champion instead.

The International Olympic Committee decided not to present any medals for the event in Beijing, where the 15-year-old Valieva was the star performer hours before her positive test for a banned heart medicine was revealed.

CAS said it upheld appeals led by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which asked the court to disqualify Valieva from the Olympics and ban her. A Russian sports tribunal had cleared her of any blame.

The CAS judges banned her for four years, through December 2025 — about seven weeks before the next Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

The U.S. team took silver in Beijing and should be upgraded to gold. Japan took bronze and Canada placed fourth.

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The IOC is responsible for reallocating medals and its executive board is next scheduled to meet in March.

Valieva’s legal team said it is reviewing the CAS decision before deciding whether to appeal to the Swiss supreme court, lawyer Andrea Pinna said in a statement. Pinna, who is based in Paris, led the skater’s defense at the appeal hearings in September and November.

Appeals to the Swiss supreme court can be made on narrow procedural grounds, not the merits of the case.

Valieva’s lawyers had argued she was contaminated by traces of the trimetazidine medication they said her grandfather used.

“Having carefully considered all the evidence put before it,” the court said in a statement, “the CAS panel concluded that Ms. Valieva was not able to establish, on the balance of probabilities and on the basis of the evidence before the Panel, that she had not committed the (doping violation) intentionally.”

The judges decided that, according to Russian anti-doping rules, Valieva could not benefit from having been a minor at the time of the positive test.

There was “no basis under the rules to treat them any differently from an adult athlete,” said the court, which did not publish its detailed verdict pending a review of confidentiality issues.

The case provoked legal chaos at the Beijing Olympics because Valieva’s sample, taken six weeks earlier at the Russian national championships, was not notified by a laboratory in Sweden until hours after she competed in the team event on February 7, 2022.

Valieva continued to skate at the Olympics after rulings by a Russian tribunal and a separate CAS panel did not hold her responsible as a minor.

The intense scrutiny on Valieva led to an error-filled skate in the individual event, where she had been favored for gold but dropped to fourth place.

The drama continued when she left the ice. The reaction of her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, was fiercely criticized by skating experts and International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.

Bach said in Beijing one day later he had been “very, very disturbed” to watch the “tremendous coldness” of Valieva’s entourage.

The case came to CAS to challenge a Russian anti-doping tribunal verdict in late 2022 that Valieva was not at fault. That ruling suggested disqualifying her only from the national championships and letting her keep her Olympic results and gold medal.

WADA asked CAS to impose a four-year ban and to disqualify Valieva from the Olympics. The International Skating Union requested a two-year ban and disqualification.

Valieva, who turns 18 in April, has not competed internationally since the Beijing Olympics.

Four days after the closing ceremony, Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and five days after that, the International Skating Union banned Russian skaters from its events. That ban is still in place.

Since the Olympics, Valieva has skated on an expanded Russian national competition circuit and in various TV events and ice shows. She is no longer the near-unbeatable skater she appeared to be before the Beijing Olympics and has twice been beaten at the Russian nationals by younger skaters from the same training group under Tutberidze.

Although scores at nationals are often inflated, Valieva’s 237.99 points — third at the Russia championships — would have been the best in the world by more than 10 points this season.

When an athlete 16 or younger tests positive for a banned substance, international rules require an investigation of their entourage. Both the Russian anti-doping body and WADA were expected to look into the case but neither has published any findings and there is no indication anyone else is facing anti-doping charges in the case.

American ice dancer Evan Bates said this past weekend at the national championships getting a team medal with partner partner Madison Chock will be particularly meaningful to them.

“I say, you know, we’re the only two athletes from the Beijing team that are still competing — every single one of the rest of us has moved on,” Bates said. “I think two years is too long that it’s taken for this decision to be made. We’re just looking forward to getting some closure after a long waiting period.”

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