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Russian skater Valieva's future rests on sports court's decision

By AFP

January 28, 2024 11:28 AM


Russian skater Valieva's future rests on sports court's decision

Russian skater Valieva's future rests on sports court's decision

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The future of Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, whose positive doping test ignited a scandal at the 2022 Winter Olympics, should become clearer in the coming days when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is expected to hand down its verdict.

Valieva was just 15 when she tested positive raising questions not just about her guilt and the Russian Olympic system after the Sochi Winter Games of 2014 but how she was treated as a minor, the way the test was conducted and the value of the drug involved for enhancing performance.

The case came to CAS following Valieva's exoneration by Russia's anti-doping agency (RUSADA).

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Skating Union (ISU) then appealed RUSADA's ruling, as did RUSADA itself.

Three CAS judges met in Lausanne in September to hear the case with Valieva, now 17, and some of the experts and witnesses taking part via videoconference.

A decision on the case could come as soon as Monday.

In Beijing in February 2022, Valieva became the first female skater to land a quadruple jump in Olympic competition, helping Russia secure gold in the team event.

The next day, she was told she had tested positive before the Games for trimetazidine, a drug used to treat angina but banned for athletes.

At the end of the year, RUSADA ruled that Valieva bore "no fault or negligence" for the positive test.

From the start, the case has presented a dilemma. Valieva's age, 15 at the time, should have guaranteed her confidentiality under WADA rules for "protected persons" younger than 16.

But Valieva's display in the team event in the Olympic arena had already drawn worldwide attention.

"Confidentiality is a good thing, but becomes a bit of a puppet when you're dealing with high-level athletes," David Pavot, director of the anti-doping research chair at the Canadian University of Sherbrooke, told AFP in 2023.

The Valieva affair, he added, has "brought to light wider ethical questions about a minimum age for participation in the Games".

Under the pressure of suspicion and attention, Valieva cracked in the individual event in Beijing, stumbling four times in the long programme and finishing in tears as she tumbled from first to fourth.

- 'Contamination by cutlery' -

The ISU is raising the lower age limit for its senior category from 15 to 17 from this year, citing the "physical, mental and emotional health" of competitors.

Pavot added that Valieva has been caught "in a spiral bigger than herself, with an anti-Russian narrative where everything is mixed up", due to the systematic cheating revealed in 2015 that discredited both Russian sport and RUSADA.

Yet it was RUSADA that tested the skater on December 25, 2021, as she won the Russian championships.

They sent the sample to the WADA-accredited laboratory in Stockholm. The lab found a minute concentration of trimetazidine but, delayed by the Covid pandemic, the result was not delivered until the middle of the Olympics.

More than a year and a half later, the podium in the team event is still up for grabs - much to the dismay of the Americans, Japanese and Canadians, who finished behind the Russian gold medallists.

After being cleared by RUSADA, Valieva returned to competition, taking second place in the Russian championships at the end of 2022.

Last November, she won the Russian Grand Prix in spite of falling twice in the free skate, and could only finish third behind Sofia Muravieva and 16-year-old Adeliia Petrosian in the 2023 national championships.

WADA and ISU have been demanding up to four years' suspension and the annulment of all her results since the end of 2021.

In her defence, Valieva blamed "contamination by cutlery" shared with her grandfather, who was treated with trimetazidine after receiving an artificial heart, and who drove her to training every day.

In 2018, sports authorities accepted two cases of accidental trimetazidine contamination.

CAS accepted that American swimmer Madisyn Cox had consumed the drug in a multivitamin.

The court also accepted that contamination led to Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva's positive test at the Pyeongchang Olympics, but did not reinstate her result at the Games.

Doubt surrounds the value of trimetazidine due in particular to its "numerous side effects" ranging from "gait disorders" to "hallucinations".


AFP


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