Winter Olympics: Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva can compete; no ceremony if she wins medal

BEIJING — Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva has been cleared to compete in the women’s individual event this week at the Beijing Olympics following a court ruling in her doping case.

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Update 5:18 a.m. EST Feb. 14: The International Olympic Committee will not hold medal ceremonies for events in which Valieva, 15, finishes among the top three, including the team figure skating competition that the Russian Olympic Committee won last week, the IOC’s executive board decided Monday.

“In the interest of fairness to all athletes and the [National Olympic Committees] concerned, it would not be appropriate to hold the medal ceremony for the figure skating team event during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 as it would include an athlete who on the one hand has a positive A-sample, but whose violation of the anti-doping rules has not yet been established on the other hand,” the IOC said in a statement.

The IOC went on to say that if Valieva finishes among the top three in the women’s single skate that begins Tuesday and ends Thursday, “no flower ceremony and no medal ceremony will take place” during the Games.

The organization also has asked the International Skating Union to allow a 25th competitor to participate in the women’s free skate Thursday if Valieva finishes in the top 24 in the short program Tuesday.

“The IOC will, in consultation with the athletes and NOCs concerned, organize dignified medal ceremonies once the case of Ms. Valieva has been concluded,” the statement read.

Update 5:01 a.m. EST Feb. 14: Sarah Hirshland, the CEO of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, has released the following statement about the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to allow Valieva, 15, to compete in the women’s single skating event:

“We are disappointed by the message this decision sends,” the statement read. “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 right is being denied. This appears to be another chapter in the systemic and pervasive disregard for clean sport by Russia.”

The statement continued: “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.”

Original report: According to The Associated Press, the Court of Arbitration for Sport issued the decision Monday after hearing arguments against the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s decision to lift a provisional suspension of the 15-year-old after a Swedish lab determined that she tested positive for trimetazidine in late December. The lab didn’t flag the positive test until Feb. 8, the day after Russia’s skaters won the team event at the Olympics, the AP reported. Valieva made history in the team competition by becoming the first woman to land a quad jump at the Olympics.

Trimetazidine, typically used to treat angina and vertigo, is prohibited because the metabolic agent can improve blood flow and endurance, the AP previously reported.

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Following Monday’s ruling, the court’s director general, Matthieu Reeb, said the panel “considered that preventing the athlete to compete at the Olympics would cause her irreparable harm in the circumstances,” according to the AP. The court also cited issues with the “untimely notification” of the positive drug test and pointed out that Valieva’s tests at the Olympics have been clean, the news agency reported.

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Although the court’s decision allows Valieva to compete in the women’s single skate Tuesday and Thursday, any medal she wins could still be stripped from her pending the results of the full investigation, according to the AP. That probe reportedly will focus on Valieva’s coaches, doctors and other members of her entourage because she is a protected minor.

A decision has not been made on whether Russia – which is competing as the Russian Olympic Committee without its anthem or flag due to previous doping scandals involving the country’s athletes – will be awarded the gold medal in the team event, the AP previously reported. The medal ceremony has been postponed.

“The decision on the results of the ROC team in the Team Figure Skating event can be taken by the [International Skating Union] only after a final decision on the full merits of the case has been taken,” the International Testing Agency said in a statement Friday.

ROC officials have questioned the timing of Valieva’s positive test results, with the group’s president, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, noting that under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s handbook, drug test results should be reported within 20 days of the receipt of a sample, according to The Washington Post and Russian news agency Tass.

“It looks very strange that the sample traveled from St. Petersburg to Stockholm for almost a month,” Pozdnyakov said, according to Tass. “This raises very serious questions for me, and it looks very much like someone was holding this sample until the end of the figure skaters’ team competitions.”

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In a statement obtained by the Post, officials with the Russian Anti-Doping Agency said the laboratory said, “The delay in analysis and reporting … was caused by another wave of COVID-19, an increase in illness among laboratory staff and quarantine rules.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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