Kamila Valieva: What’s new on the Olympic figure skating doping scandal?

Kamila Valieva’s 2022 Winter Olympics ended in tears after she missed the podium after being embroiled for days in a doping scam

Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva finishes her new routine by covering her head with a black balaclava.

In the previous four minutes, she acted out her experience of this year’s Winter Olympics, where the events around her failed drug test at the age of 15 shocked the world.

She takes off the blanket to soak up the cheers, as dozens of stuffed animals and flowers are tossed onto the ice by her fans.

Off the ice a few weeks later, she now finds herself under another metaphorical hood.

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) – which did not name Valieva directly – said on Friday he would not publicly reveal his decision in the case to “protect the interests” of a figure skater who is a “protected person”.

This prompted strong words from the director general of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada), Travis Tygart, who said that “keeping the decision and the facts secret ridicules the whole process”.

He called on global bodies such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Skating Union (ISU) to immediately announce an appeal against any decision.

It has also raised questions about what will happen to medals from the Olympic figure skating team event, which are yet to be presented eight months after the competition.

Valieva helped the Russian Olympic Committee win a team event – but before the medal ceremony news broke of her failed test. The IOC has taken the unprecedented step of delaying the awarding of medals until the matter is resolved.

The new international figure skating season begins this weekend with no sign of the darkest cloud of the previous one lifting.

How did we get here – and what might happen next?

Drama in Beijing – not yet a movie, but already a skating routine

Valieva had arrived in Beijing in February with a gold rush, having set several world records in less than six months since her senior debut and with a European title under her belt.

She made global headlines as the first skater to land a quadruple jump at the Games, dazzling the judges with her highly technical but also aesthetic routines as she helped the Russian Olympic Committee to team victory.

But before anyone had a team medal around their neck, everything changed. One of the Olympics’ biggest scandals erupted when it was revealed that she had tested positive for the banned angina drug, trimetazidine, in a sample taken six weeks before the Olympics. Games.

Not only was it announced on the biggest stage in the world, but it also involved a child.

She successfully appealed a provisional suspension imposed by Rusada, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld that decision following appeals from the IOC, WADA and ISU, allowing her to continue to compete in Beijing.

Under intense global media scrutiny and with her entourage also in the spotlight, she took to the ice, fighting back tears at the end of the short program that put her at the top of the standings heading into the free skate.

Two days later, her skating slumped and she fell several times, leaving the ice in tears – scolded rather than comforted by her coach – and sobbing as she awaited the score that saw her finish fourth.

She is now reliving some of those experiences in her 2022-23 routines.

The long program begins with the words of a CNN report about him from Games: “It was unexpected, it was shocking…” and is set to music from The Truman Show – a reality TV movie and a life played before a global audience.

She hasn’t said explicitly what message she’s trying to get across with this new routine but is widely quoted in Russian media as saying, “I’d like to share this, because this story has to be lived in order to fully accept it.”

Valieva still works with the same coach, Eteri Tutberidze, who has come under intense scrutiny in Beijing for what International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach called his conduct ‘chilling’ by failing to comfort his accusation in tears. Speaking about her new routine, the teenager added: “If I didn’t like the idea [of this programme], I would have said. The coaches would have listened.”

The balaclava she pulls at the end is apparently a reminder of when she covered her face to walk on her own former reporters, and all their questions, after a training session shortly after the failure was announced. of the drug test.

Her short program, meanwhile, features her spelling out in Morse code a word she told Russian media she ‘probably missed out on a bit at the Olympics’, without explaining what that word is. .

Valieva is due to perform at an event in Moscow this weekend – although it’s unclear if Rusada’s decisions will affect that.

Waiting for medals is ‘super boring’ as anti-doping process takes time

US men’s Olympic champion Nathan Chen, whose team finished second to the Russians in the team event in Beijing, expressed his frustration this week at not knowing what was going on.

“That’s probably the hardest part, having no knowledge of the situation,” he told The Associated Press. “We get updates and it’s always, ‘We have no idea what’s going on.’ It’s super boring.”

Her teammate and ice dancer Madison Chock added, “It’s always on our minds.”

His team’s silver could be turned into gold, with Japan moving to silver and Canada to bronze. But Russia could also end up keeping the gold.

The USA team launched an unsuccessful legal challenge to try to win the medals awarded at the Games – and at the time the Americans’ lawyers said it could even be until 2024 before they were awarded them .

Former Canadian figure skater Meagan Duhamel, reacting to Rusada’s statement, tweeted: “This needs to be resolved! Enough is enough.”

What is Valieva doing from Beijing and will we see her skating again?

Russian President Vladimir Putin poses with figure skater Kamila Valieva during an award ceremony for the medalists of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at the Kremlin in Moscow on April 26
Russian President Vladimir Putin defended Valieva when he presented her with an award in April, saying: “Such perfection cannot be achieved dishonestly with the help of additional substances, manipulations”

Less than a week after Valieva left the ice of Beijing, Russia invaded Ukraine.

International sporting events have been moved out of Russia as part of sanctions against Moscow, and its athletes – already banned from events due to state-sponsored doping, although they can compete under certain circumstances under a neutral flag – found themselves uninvited from others due to the war.

This means that regardless of where the process stands regarding her failed drug test, Valieva cannot currently compete in top international events because the International Skating Union has banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from its competitions.

Valieva, who met Russian President Vladimir Putin in April at an event honoring the Beijing 2022 medalists, returned to competition in March at the Channel One Cup – a national exhibition event held at the same time that the world championships were going on without the Russians – and appeared in ice shows over the summer.

She continued to train with Tutberidze, who is part of the entourage Wada told Beijing he would investigate. There has been no word on the outcome of this process.

In September, Valieva unveiled her new routines for this season, which she is due to perform in the Russian capital this weekend.

Even if she wears the balaclava again, there will be no disguise that there is still a lot to discover in this case.

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