Kamila Valieva’s fourth-place finish in women’s singles skating has written the next chapter in a story that is sure to continue well beyond the Beijing Games.
The Russian figure skater has been at the heart of a doping scandal that dates back to December 2021, when the 15-year-old tested positive for the banned heart drug trimetazidine.
However, the test was not analyzed and reported to the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) until February, leading to Valieva’s suspension on February 8.
The suspension came a day after she helped the ROC win gold in the figure skating team event.
Valieva was reinstated after an appeal, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) cleared her to compete in the Olympics, citing specific provisions related to her protected status as a minor, while investigations into any doping violations by Valieva and the adults responsible for its continuing education.
The skater’s continued involvement in the Games led American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson to question the decision – citing a positive test for cannabis that derailed her own Olympic dream in Tokyo last summer.
“Can we get a solid answer on the difference between the situation (of Valieva) and the mines (sic)?” Richardson wrote on Twitter.
“My mother passed away and I can’t run and I was also favored to finish in the top 3. The only difference I see is that I’m a young black woman,” she said. added.
On Tuesday, an International Olympic Committee (IOC) official said Valieva blamed the doping violation – in which she tested positive for a heart medication, experts say. can improve stamina – on contamination by his grandfather’s drugs.
Her trainer, Eteri Tutberidze, told Russian news agency Tass they were “absolutely sure” she was innocent.
The drug’s effects on increased endurance could potentially prove influential following a rule change in 2004 that rewards athletes for performing jumps near the end of their routines.
According to the current scoring system, jumps performed in the second half of the free skate can get a 10% bonus because it is more difficult to perform them with tired legs.
Following widespread criticism of the rule in 2018 – with critics alleging that skaters were piling up in jumps towards the end of performances – the International Skating Union created a new rule that skaters will only get 10% bonus for up to three jump passes in the second half of their free skate.
It was against this backdrop and under unprecedented pressure that Valieva competed in the individual event, but the 15-year-old posted the best score in the short program on Tuesday to take pole position in Thursday’s deciding free skate.
Further controversy followed when it was announced by an IOC spokesperson that any results involving Valieva in the women’s individual event would bear an “asterisk” until her case was concluded, and as such, there would be no ceremony of flowers or medals.
Yet after several falls in her free skate routine, Valieva’s fourth place finish left her just outside the podium spots. Afterwards, the medal ceremony is scheduled to take place on Friday, February 18, according to the official Olympic media website.
However, despite Valieva’s fall from individual medals, the fallout from the scandal is sure to taint the Games as the investigation continues.
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