Despite Kamila Valieva testing positive for a banned substance, the teenage Russian skater will compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics. Here’s what you need to know.
Stop us if you heard this before: a Russian Olympic athlete got caught doping. Kamila Valieva, the 15-year-old figure skating wonder who has dazzled the world on the ice at the Beijing 2022 games, is at the center of an Olympic scandal. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), a global sports arbiter, ruled on Monday (Feb. 14) that Kamila could compete in the women’s figure skating event, despite testing positive for a banned substance in December 2021. Kamila is favored to win gold in Tuesday’s event, and the ruling has caused a growing backlash over Russia’s continued list of doping violations.
The CAS upheld a decision by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s (RUSADA) agency to lift a provisional suspension against Valieva, per CNN. The CAS said that Kamila could compete because of “exceptional circumstances,” including provisions linking her as a “protected person” – because she’s a minor – under the World Anti-Doping Code. The CAS noted that she didn’t test positive during the games and that “preventing the athlete from competing at the Olympic Games would cause her irreparable harm in these circumstances.”
However, the International Olympic Committee wasn’t happy about this, nor was the International Skating Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency. Sha’Carri Richardson also had something to say about this. So, who is the young Russian at the heart of this scandal?
1. Kamila Valieva Is A Figure Skater Who Has Already Won Gold.
Born Kamila Valeryevna Valieva, this young Russian is a figure skater who has already picked up gold at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Kamila was part of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team that finished first in the figure skating Team Event. Kamila’s solo program, held on Feb. 6, earned a Total Segment Score of 90.18, more than 25 points ahead of second place, Japan’s Higuchi Wakaba. Her Free Skate session, held on Feb. 7, also blew away the competition. She earned 178.92 points, more than 30 more than Sakamoto Kaori, who finished second.
The 20 points that Kamila scored for the ROC helped the team win gold. The squad finished nine points ahead of the United States and eleven points ahead of the Bronze-winning Japan team.
2. Kamila Tested Positive For A Banned Substance In December 2021.
Kamila underwent a drug test during the Russian Figure Skating Championships in Saint Petersburg on Dec. 25, 2021. A Swedish laboratory didn’t report the results until Feb. 8, a day after the ROC won gold. RUSADA immediately gave Kamila a provisional suspension. Kamila challenged the decision the following day, and RUSADA lifted the ban.
So, what did Kamila test positive for? Trimetazidine, a banned heart medication that is purported to improve endurance, per Vox. However, the ROC assured that she had “repeatedly passed doping tests” while in China and that she had “honestly won” all her competitions.
Kamila trains with coach Eteri Tutberidze, who Vox notes is “the single most dominant coach in women’s figure skating.” Many of her skaters have taken home “Olympic golds and silvers, World Championships, European Championships, and international champions,” but none have competed in multiple Olympics. They’ve retired, many citing injury, in four-year windows. Vox also notes that there was “a pattern of abusive practices when it comes to diet restriction and over-training.”
3. Kamila Was Excited To Skate In Beijing.
“Everyone dreams of Beijing,” she told Olympics Channel in 2021. “I’m a little bit afraid to talk about it in a [wider] sense! I try not to think about [Beijing 2022] because everything depends not on those people, who let’s say, ‘bet’ on me, but just on myself.”
4. Yulia Lipnitskaya Inspired Her To Become A Skater.
“The first time I watched [was] the 2014 Olympics, I watched Yulia Lipnitskaya, and I liked her so much,” Kamila told the Olympics Channel in 2021. Yulia helped the Russian team win gold in the team figure skating event at the 2014 Sochi games. “When I was small, I kept saying all the time: ‘All I want is to be the Olympic champion, I want to be the Olympic champion.’ I was probably four years old back then,” said Kamila.
“I have rewatched Alina Zagitova’s free skate program [from PyeongChang 2018] many times,” added Kamila. “I do not know why but whenever I didn’t feel good, I watched it and… she skated it with so much drive. It seemed so easy, so I thought: ‘If it worked for Alina to skate so lightly, then it can work for me too.”
5. Her Scandal Has Caused A Backlash.
The IOC has ruled that there will be no medal ceremony if Kamila finishes in the top 3 of the women’s single figure skating event. Nor will there be a medal ceremony for the team figure skating event. The Russians are, after all, competing under the Russian Olympic Committee banner because Russia was banned from the Olympics after WADA uncovered a widespread and state-sponsored doping network. Athletes from Russia can compete as part of the ROC, but the Russian anthem cannot be played if a ROC athlete wins gold.
Likely, there won’t be a medal ceremony for the women’s figure skating event because Kamila is that good.
The decision to allow Kamila to skate was blasted by Sha’Carri Richardson. The American track runner qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics but tested positive for cannabis. She was given a one-month suspension by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) on June 28, 2021 – meaning she wouldn’t be eligible to compete in the women’s 100-meter race. Sha’Carri, who has repeatedly said she smoked to console herself following the death of her mother, dragged the decision to allow Kamila to compete.
“Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mines?” she tweeted. “My mother died and I can’t run and was also favored to place top 3. The only difference I see is I’m a black young lady.”