Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva is free to compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rejected demands to impose a suspension on the teenager, in a case involving a positive doping sample taken in December.
The decision comes just one day before the women’s figure skating singles event in Beijing, where the 15-year-old Valieva is the gold medal favorite and is now able to compete.
In announcing the decision, CAS cited Valieva’s status as a “protected person” under the World-Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code due to her age.
It also noted that Valieva had not tested positive in Beijing, and that imposing a suspension on her at the Games would cause “irreparable harm in these circumstances.”
Referring to the fact that Valieva’s result from the doping probe taken on December 25 was not reported until February 8 – after she had competed and won gold in the team event in Beijing – CAS said there were “serious issues” regarding the “untimely notification” of the result, which hindered Valieva’s ability to establish a legal defense.
The welcome verdict for the Russian team in Beijing comes after a three-person CAS panel held an emergency hearing at a hotel in the Chinese capital on Sunday which ran late into the night, and where Valieva herself had testified via video link.
The case centered on a positive doping test for banned heart medicine trimetazidine in a sample taken during the Russian national championships in December.
The test result – which came from a laboratory in Stockholm accredited by WADA – had taken more than six weeks to be reported, and came after Valieva had already helped the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) to gold in the figure skating team event in Beijing.
Valieva had initially been suspended by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), but that decision was reversed upon appeal.
In an attempt to provisionally ban Valieva again, each of WADA, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the International Skating Union (ISU) had taken their case to a special CAS panel.
The IOC had said earlier on Monday that it would accept any decision by CAS regarding the skater’s right to compete in Beijing, although investigations will continue by the anti-doping authorities into the positive sample that Valieva returned in December.
Reigning European and Russian champion Valieva – who also holds a series of world record scores – is now free to line up on the ice when the women’s individual event starts at the Capital Indoor Stadium on Tuesday.
Valieva’s status as the favorite for individual gold had already been bolstered with her dazzling display in the team event earlier in the Games.
Valieva produced a spellbinding short skate routine before becoming the first woman ever to land a quad jump at the Olympics during her free skate performance.
But the medal ceremony for that event was delayed as Valieva was forced to contend with immense speculation as her legal case has played out.
The CAS decision noted that it had not been asked to examine the legal consequences relating to the results of the team event, and that “such issues will be examined in other proceedings.”
That means the status of the ROC gold medal could still be at risk, in an event where the team finished ahead of the USA and Japan, while Canada were fourth.
Members of Valieva’s team, including coach Eteri Tutberidze, have consistently said they have “no doubt” about the youngster’s innocence, while the ROC has noted that Valieva repeatedly passed doping tests before and after her positive result in December.
Questions were widely raised as to why it took so long for the positive test result to be reported, something which supposedly stemmed from COVID-related delays at the Swedish laboratory in question.
Both Tutberdize and ROC president Stanislav Podznyakov had noted the unusual circumstances surrounding the delayed test result.
After Valieva won her legal battle to continue to compete in Beijing, the intense media glare placed on the teenager is unlikely to go away as attention will now turn to how the ordeal affects her performance on Tuesday.
The youngster was due on the ice for training in Beijing just 30 minutes after the CAS decision was announced.
Along with Valieva, the ROC team will also be represented in the women’s singles event by 2021 world champion Anna Shcherbakova and quad-jumping star Alexandra Trusova.
After Tuesday’s short skate programs, the event concludes with the free skate routines on Thursday in Beijing.