Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva’s right to compete in the women’s event at the Winter Olympics will be decided at an urgent hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The International Testing Agency said it will lead an appeal on behalf of the IOC against a decision by Russia’s anti-doping agency to lift a provisional ban — which Russian officials had imposed Tuesday — on the 15-year-old Valieva for failing a doping test in December.
The ITA, which learned of the positive dope test on Tuesday, said that because Valieva is a minor, the agency did not initially disclose the result because she was classified as a “Protected Person.” The status applies to anyone under the age of 16.
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Valieva is the heavy favorite in her event next week after setting world record scores this season and landing the first quad jump by a woman at an Olympics.
In a statement, the ITA said a sample was collected from Valieva on Dec. 25 at the 2022 Russian Figure Skating Championships in Saint Petersburg. The testing and management of the results were under the authority of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency.
The ITA said a laboratory in Sweden on Tuesday "reported that the sample had returned an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) for the non-specified prohibited substance trimetazidine."
"Following this, the athlete was provisionally suspended by RUSADA with immediate effect," the ITA said.
However, Valieva had already competed and helped her team win gold prior to the positive doping test report and subsequent suspension.
Whether the Russians, competing as ROC, will lose their gold medal in the team event will be decided later.
Valieva appealed the suspension to Russian officials and the appeal was granted on Wednesday. The IOC appealed Russia's decision to reverse the suspension on Thursday.
The urgent hearing at CAS will only consider the question of the provisional ban at these games, said the ITA which is prosecuting on behalf of the IOC.
“The IOC will exercise its right to appeal and not to wait for the reasoned decision by RUSADA, because a decision is needed before the next competition the athlete is due to take part in,” the testing agency said.
Though Valieva is at the heart of the case, as a 15-year-old she has protections in the sports’ rule book – the World Anti-Doping Code. Under these guidelines she could ultimately receive just a simple reprimand.
The focus will turn on her entourage, such as coaches and team doctors, who face a mandatory investigation as “athlete support personnel” when a minor is implicated in doping rules violations. That isn't typically the case for athletes aged over 18.
“Such cases are not helpful to the Games," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “These cases need to be prosecuted properly, taken care of properly and due process needs to be gone through. Otherwise I think the confidence of people would be even less. So I think it’s very important for everybody concerned, not least the 15-year-old athlete that’s concerned, that we have due process, that it’s seen to be done properly, and that people can have confidence in the decisions that are taken.”
Valieva will likely be stripped of her Russian national title in December.
“The Russian Olympic Committee will take comprehensive measures to defend the rights and interests of the ROC team and to keep the honestly-won Olympic gold medal (in the team event),” the ROC said in a statement. It added that a doping test Valieva took while at the Olympics came back clean — all medalists are tested at the Olympics.
“The ROC also assumes that a full investigation will be carried out, as a result of which all significant legal and factual circumstances regarding what has happened will be established."
For the second straight day, Valieva worked out early at the main rink inside Capital Indoor Stadium as if nothing was amiss. She was flanked by Russian teammates Alexandra Trusova and world champion Anna Shcherbakova, both of whom are also coached by Eteri Tutberidze,
During the 45-minute session, Valieva threw down four quad jumps, including one in a potentially high-scoring combination with a triple salchow.
Despite missing on that combo at the Rostelecom Cup in November, when she did a quad-double, Valieva still set a world record there for her free skate. She also set the world record for the short program and total score at the same Grand Prix event in Russia.
A ruling on the Olympic team event likely will take much longer, preventing any medals being awarded in Beijing before the closing ceremony on Feb. 20. RUSADA will first investigate the full merits of the doping case and give a judgment. That verdict would lead to an appeal and could also end up at CAS.
“The decision on the results of the ROC team in the Team Figure Skating event can be taken by the ISU only after a final decision on the full merits of the case has been taken,” the ITA said.
The latest doping case involving a Russian athlete could have broader implications for the country’s sports program.
Russia is competing in the Beijing Olympics as ROC, short for Russian Olympic Committee, without its anthem or flag. That’s because of the fallout from years of doping disputes including steroid use and cover-ups at the 2014 Winter Olympics, which Russia hosted.
Another scandal could extend its two-year ban beyond the scheduled December end.