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Kamila Valieva tests positive, Court of Arbitration for Sport to decide fate of Russian figure skater

A complicated case involving the Russian women’s champion and gold medal favorite in Beijing heads to Switzerland to be decided.

Kamila Valieva of Team Russia skates during the Women Single Skating Free Skating Team Event on day three of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Capital Indoor Stadium on February 07, 2022 in Beijing, China. Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

An urgent hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport will determine the fate of 15-year-old Kamila Valieva, the favorite to win the gold medal in women’s figure skating at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing next Tuesday.

An unusual statement from the International Testing Agency regarding the case was issued on Friday, where the independent arbiters of testing for banned substances amongst athletes said Valieva tested positive for trimetazidine at the Russian championships, which she won, on December 25.

That result, which came from a World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratory in Stockholm, Sweden, wasn’t known until February 8th however. That was the day after the ROC team won gold in the team figure skating event in Beijing, with Valieva victorious over all other women in the competition.

Upon finding out about the violation, the Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA provisionally suspended Valieva, which would have kept her out of the balance of the Olympics. But the following day RUSADA upheld an appeal from the athlete, reversing their suspension from just a day earlier. And since RUSADA and not the IOC was the governing body overseeing the failed doping test, they have the authority to clear her.

If RUSADA had not unsuspended Valieva, under IOC and ITA anti-doping rules, she would have been not allowed to practice or compete at the Olympics.

And the arbitrary lifting of the suspension is why the IOC is going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland for a final decision.

Under the World Anti-Doping Code, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the International Skating Union (ISU), RUSADA and the IOC have a right to appeal the decision to lift the provisional suspension before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The IOC will exercise its right to appeal and not to wait for the reasoned decision by RUSADA, because a decision is needed before the next competition the athlete is due to take part in (Women Single Skating, 15 February 2022).

The IOC and ITA, which was formed in the wake of massive Russian doping during the Sochi Olympics in 2014, believes the withdrawal of the suspension is unjust. And since the ROC team consists only of Russian athletes, but is unable to be called Russia due to a state-sponsored doping program over several years of glaring violations of doping codes, they might have a case.

CAS will determine both the status of Valieva for the women’s figure skating competition in Beijing next week, as well as that of the Russian team that finished first in the team competition. The United States was second, Japan third, and Canada fourth. If CAS determines Valieva should not have competed, each of those countries will move up one spot during a medal ceremony that has yet to take place.