Russian Skater at Center of Doping Scandal Can Compete

Kamila Valieva testified at a hearing that lasted into the wee hours of Monday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 13, 2022 7:10 AM CST
Updated Feb 14, 2022 12:05 AM CST
One Person Silent in Doping Scandal: The Skater Herself
Coach Eteri Tutberidze, left top, talks to Kamila Valieva during a training session Sunday in Beijing.   (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Update: Figure skater Kamila Valieva has been cleared to compete in the women's figure skating competition at the Winter Olympics despite failing a pre-Games drug test, the AP reports. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled after a hastily arranged appeal hearing that lasted into early Monday that the Russian 15-year-old, the favorite for the women’s individual gold, does not need to be provisionally suspended ahead of a full investigation. Valieva testified by video during the hearing that started Sunday evening. The women's short program competition is Tuesday. Our original story from Sunday follows:

The 15-year-old figure skating star at the center of Russia’s latest doping scandal, now stretching toward its second week and some form of resolution, seems to be the only person in the world without a word to say about it, per the AP. Instead, Kamila Valieva continues to gamely practice at the Beijing Olympics amid a sea of media and camera crews as the Court of Arbitration for Sport decides whether she is even allowed to compete this week. An expedited hearing was scheduled for Sunday night, with a ruling expected sometime Monday. Valieva has yet to miss a scheduled practice since a drug test taken in December was flagged last Monday for traces of a banned heart medication. That was the same day the reigning European champion helped the Russian skaters win team gold with a dynamic free skate in which she became the first woman to land a quad in Olympic competition.

It hasn't always been easy to plug along as the world implodes around her, though. On several occasions, the stress appeared to have gotten to Valieva, including a moment during Saturday's practice session when she fell during a triple axel and eventually skated to the boards and tearfully hugged her embattled coach, Eteri Tutberidze. “She's a strong girl,” offered Russian ice dancer Victoria Sinitsina, who along with her partner, Nikita Katsalapov, have tried to provide Valieva some much-needed support as three men in a Beijing hotel decide the fate of her Olympic dreams. “I told her to calm down,” Sinitsina said, “even if it's a hard situation right now.”

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One way or another, Valieva will know soon whether she will be allowed to compete in the women's short program on Tuesday. A decision by CAS is expected roughly 24 hours before the overwhelming favorite to win the gold medal is due on the ice at Capital Indoor Stadium. Most critics taking to social media have largely supported Valieva, leveling their ire instead at Russian coaches and administrators responsible for her well-being. That includes Tutberidze, who also coaches teammates Alexandra Trusova and Anna Shcherbakova, and who has earned a reputation for using up and discarding her young athletes. “Let's be kind to the 15-year-old who produced a positive drug test because she lives in an institutionalized system where she was most likely guided and trusted the adults around her,” tweeted Mirai Nagasu, a member of the US figure skating team four years ago at the Pyeongchang Games.

(More 2022 Olympics stories.)

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