Doping hearing to decide Russian skater’s Olympic fate

Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva’s right to compete in the imminent women’s event at the Beijing Olympics will be decided at an urgent hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The International Testing Agency — on behalf of the 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 when the Russian Olympic Committee won the team event Monday. The ROC said it will fight to keep that gold medal.

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 that gold medal will be decided later.

An AP request for an interview with the Swedish lab has gone unanswered.

Valieva was hit with an immediate interim ban from the Beijing Olympics by the Russian anti-doping agency known as RUSADA, which oversaw testing at the national championships.

On Wednesday, a RUSADA disciplinary panel upheld her appeal and overturned the skater’s interim ban.

The rushed 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 ITA was formed by the IOC in 2018 in the wake of the Russian doping scandal to manage international testing and to design the anti-doping program for the Olympics.

“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.

As a 15-year-old, Valieva 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 rules state her entourage, such as coaches and team doctors, must be investigated, too. That isn’t typically the case for athletes aged over 18.

“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 stripped of her Russian national title in December.

“The Russian Olympic Committee will take comprehensive measures to defend the rights and interests of the ROC team and to keep the honestly-won Olympic gold medal (in the team event),” the ROC said in a statement. It added that a doping test Valieva took while at the Olympics came back clean – all medalists are tested at the Olympics.

“The ROC also assumes that a full investigation will be carried out, as a result of which all significant legal and factual circumstances regarding what has happened will be established.”

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.

A ruling on the Olympic team event likely will take much longer, 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 could 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 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 its two-year ban beyond the scheduled December end.

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AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Beijing contributed to this report.

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