Russian Skater Kamila Valieva Cleared in Doping Investigation

Despite failing a pre-Games drug test, Russian teenager Kamila Valieva has been authorized to compete in the women’s figure skating category at the Winter Olympics.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled less than 12 hours after a hurriedly organized hearing that Valieva, the favorite for the women’s solo gold medal, did not need to be provisionally suspended until the completion of a comprehensive inquiry. Because she was a juvenile or “protected person” who was subject to different standards than an adult athlete, the court ruled in her favor.

“In the circumstances, the panel determined that prohibiting the athlete from competing at the Olympics would cause her irreparable injury,” stated CAS Director General Matthieu Reeb.

Valieva and her Russian teammates may now aspire for the first ever women’s figure skating podium sweep in Olympic history. The competition begins on Tuesday with the short program and finishes on Thursday with the free skate.

Valieva skated in her designated practice time session shortly after the decision was made.

In its verdict, the CAS panel also highlighted fundamental concerns of justice, the fact that she tested clean in Beijing, and “severe difficulties of late notice” of her positive test as reasons for its decision.

Valieva tested positive for the cardiac medication trimetazidine at the Russian nationals on Dec. 25, but the results from a Swedish lab didn’t come out until a week ago, after she had helped the Russian Olympic Committee win team gold.

The explanation of the six-week delay in Sweden is unknown, while Russian officials have speculated that it was partially due to an increase in omicron variant COVID-19 cases in January, which impacted lab personnel.

The Russian anti-doping organization (RUSADA) banned her immediately, then lifted the suspension the next day, delaying the awarding of the medals. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and others filed an appeal, and a special hearing was convened on Sunday night. Valieva gave her testimony through video conferencing.

Athletes under the age of 16 have extra privileges under anti-doping guidelines, and are usually not held liable if they use illegal drugs. Any future probe will focus on her personal team, which includes coaches, physicians, and nutritionists.

This decision primarily concerns whether Valieva may continue skating until her lawsuit is completed. It has no bearing on the fate of the gold medal she has already earned.

When Valieva and the Russian Olympic Committee won the team event gold on Monday, she made history by landing the first quadruple leaps by a woman in the Olympics. The silver medal went to the United States, while the bronze went to Japan. Canada came in fourth place.

That gold, as well as any other medals she wins in the individual competition, may be taken away from her.

RUSADA, which took the sample in St. Petersburg, will lead a separate, longer-term inquiry into the adverse doping test.

The World Anti-Doping Agency will be able to challenge RUSADA’s decision. WADA has also stated that it intends to look into Valieva’s entourage.

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