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Winter Olympics: Russian skater Valieva in 1st place after short program amid doping scandal

BEIJING — Beleaguered Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva led the women’s individual competition at the Beijing Olympics on Tuesday, finishing the short program with a score of 82.16.

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She was followed by the Russian Olympic Committee’s Anna Shcherbakova and Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto, who will head into Thursday’s free skate in second and third place, respectively. For the Americans, Alysa Liu earned 8th place with a score of 69.5, Mariah Bell placed 11th with a score of 65.38 and Karen Chen finished in 13th place with a score of 64.11.

Tuesday’s short program came one day after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled to allow Valieva, 15, to compete amid a doping scandal. The court heard arguments Sunday against the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s decision to lift the skater’s provisional suspension after a Swedish lab determined that she tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine on Dec. 25. The lab didn’t flag the positive test until Feb. 8, the day after Russia’s skaters won the team competition at the Olympics, The Associated Press reported. Valieva made history in the team event 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, according to the AP.

Denis Oswald, the International Olympic Committee Disciplinary Commission’s permanent chair, said Valieva’s defense in Sunday’s hearing was that a mix-up “happened with a product her grandfather was taking.”

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Although the court’s decision allowed 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, the AP reported. That probe will focus on Valieva’s coaches, doctors and other members of her entourage because she is a protected minor.

In addition, the IOC’s executive board announced Monday that it will not hold medal ceremonies for events in which Valieva finishes among the top three, including the team figure skating competition.

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“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,” officials with the IOC said in a statement.

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

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The IOC 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 organization said in a statement.

Russia is already competing in Beijing as the Russian Olympic Committee – without its anthem or flag – due to previous doping scandals involving the country’s athletes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.