BEIJING—Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva’s right to compete in the women’s event at the Beijing Olympics will be decided at an urgent hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The International Testing Agency (ITA)—on behalf of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)—said Friday it would fight a decision by Russia’s anti-doping agency to allow the 15-year-old Valieva to skate. The Russian agency had provisionally banned Valieva this week because she failed a doping test in December.
Valieva is the heavy favorite in her event which begins Tuesday after setting world record scores this season and landing the first quad jump by a women at an Olympics.
The ITA confirmed reports that Valieva tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine at the Russian national championships in St. Petersburg six weeks ago.
The positive test was flagged by a laboratory in Sweden only on Tuesday—the day after Valieva helped the Russians win the team event and just hours before the medal ceremony, which was then postponed. Whether the Russians will lose their gold medal in the team event will be decided later.
The legal handling of Valieva’s case started with an immediate interim ban from the Beijing Olympics imposed by the Russian agency, known as RUSADA, which oversaw testing at the national championships.
On Wednesday, a RUSADA disciplinary panel upheld her appeal to overturn the skater’s interim ban.
The urgent hearing at CAS will only consider the question of the provisional ban at these games, said the ITA which is prosecuting on behalf of the IOC.
“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,” the testing agency said.
Though Valieva is at the heart of the case, as a 15-year-old she has protections in the sports’ rule book—the World Anti-Doping Code. Under these guidelines she could ultimately receive just a simple reprimand.
When a minor is implicated in doping rules violations, the focus of the mandatory investigation turns to her entourage, such as coaches and team doctors.
“Such cases are not helpful to the Games,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “These cases need to be prosecuted properly, taken care of properly and due process needs to be gone through. Otherwise I think the confidence of people would be even less. So I think it’s very important for everybody concerned, not least the 15-year-old athlete that’s concerned, that we have due process, that it’s seen to be done properly, and that people can have confidence in the decisions that are taken.”
Valieva will likely be disqualified from her Russian national title in December but could still be cleared to compete in Beijing next week.
For the second straight day, Valieva worked out early at the main rink inside Capital Indoor Stadium as if nothing was amiss. She was flanked by Russian teammates Alexandra Trusova and world champion Anna Shcherbakova, both of whom are also coached by Eteri Tutberidze.
During the 45-minute session, Valieva threw down four quad jumps, including one in a potentially high-scoring combination with a triple salchow.
Despite missing on that combo at the Rostelecom Cup in November, when she did a quad-double, Valieva still set a world record there for her free skate. She also set the world record for the short program and total score at the same Grand Prix event in Russia.
The result of the Olympic team event is set to be a much longer-term legal process, likely preventing any medals being awarded in Beijing before the closing ceremony on Feb. 20
RUSADA will first investigate the full merits of the doping case and give a judgment. That verdict would lead to an appeal and also end up at CAS.
“The decision on the results of the ROC team in the Team Figure Skating event can be taken by the ISU [International Skating Union] only after a final decision on the full merits of the case has been taken,” the ITA said.
The latest doping case involving a Russian athlete could have broader implications for the country’s sports program.
Russia is competing in the Beijing Olympics as ROC, short for Russian Olympic Committee, without its anthem or flag. That’s because of the fallout from years of doping disputes including steroid use and cover-ups at the 2014 Winter Olympics, which Russia hosted.
Another scandal could extend their two-year ban beyond its scheduled December end.
By Graham Dunbar and James Ellingworth