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Russian skater Kamila Valieva bears the brunt of the doping scandal on the ice

The 15 year old is at the center of a doping scandal that stirs up mistrust of the Russian sports establishment, pressed sports organizations and athletes around the world to call for reform, and saw the International Olympic Committee (IOC) postpone medal ceremonies for any event that could place Valieva on the podium.
Authorities are still investigating whether Valieva or her entourage broke anti-doping rules, after a test she took in December came back positive for a banned substance.
On Tuesday, an IOC official said Valieva blamed the doping violation – in which she tested positive for a heart drug, experts say. can improve stamina – on contamination from his grandfather’s drugs. Her trainer, Eteri Tutberidze, told Russian news agency Tass they were “absolutely sure” she was innocent.

Despite the drug controversy, a top sports ground on Monday cleared Valieva to compete in the women’s singles competition, one of the most high-profile events of the Winter Olympics and which the young skater considers a chance. to win solo gold.

Valieva will compete amid “extraordinary pressure”, according to Peter Terry, professor of psychology at the University of Southern Queensland, who has worked with Olympians at nine previous Olympics.

“She would have been trained in relaxation techniques, mindfulness training — that’s pretty standard for elite athletes, and she would try to normalize things as much as possible,” Terry said.

How Valieva holds up to that pressure will determine whether she can continue to compete in the free skating portion of the event, scheduled for Thursday. For those skating in this second, longer program, the combined scores determine who wins.

Even before the competition, the IOC changed the rules in case Valieva was ultimately disqualified – 25 skaters will take part in the longer program on Thursday, one more than the usual 24.


Valieva is not the only member of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) under pressure.

Her entourage is also being investigated under the suspicion that the teenager, so guilty of taking a banned substance, was not acting alone.

As a minor, Valieva has “protected” status and the specific evidentiary provisions in such cases were one of the reasons the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s decision to lift Valieva’s suspension, allowing her to skate.

A number of sports officials and athletes around the world have condemned the CAS decision.

The head of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said the group was “disappointed” with the message it is sending to the global sporting community. But many of the same voices defended Valieva as a victim of systematic failure.

Russian skater Kamila Valieva bears the brunt of the doping scandal on the ice

“It is clearly a wish and a decision of the IOC but also of WADA to examine all aspects of this case, including the situation of the entourage because of course one can imagine that a 15-year-old girl wouldn’t do anything wrong on her own — so yes, the entourage will be investigated,” Denis Oswald, chairman of the IOC Disciplinary Commission, told reporters on Tuesday.

That entourage includes one of Russia’s most prominent skating coaches, Tutberidze – a former ice skater renowned for raising champions, including medalists at the last two Winter Olympics, but who also faced questions about his extreme training tactics.

Terry, the psychology professor, said while he couldn’t speculate on Valieva’s innocence or guilt, it was “hard to imagine a 15-year-old taking an illicit substance of his own volition.”

“The (adults around her) have a solemn responsibility to put her well-being before results, because she is a child in their care. Now whether they do that or not is uncertain. “, did he declare.

But others see the situation as more than an athlete and a coach, in light of Russia’s recent history of state-sponsored systemic doping.

Past infractions have seen the country’s athletes barred from international competitions. Since 2019, they have only been able to compete as neutrals at the Olympics due to a WADA ban that was due to expire at the end of this year.

On Tuesday, WADA founding president Dick Pound called for a “time out” for Russia’s participation in the Olympics.

“It’s been going on too long and it’s too obvious. Maybe it’s time for Russia to go to the Olympics,” said Pound, a senior IOC member and former Canadian athlete.

But the IOC’s Oswald said this case might be different.

“From what I’ve seen and heard, I feel like there’s no connection with the institutionalized doping we had in Sochi, it seems like a totally different case.” he said on Tuesday. “But again, it’s hard to have an opinion without all the details.”

CNN’s Hannah Ritchie and Selina Wang contributed reporting.


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