Russian anti-doping agency allowed Kamila Valieva to compete in Olympics despite failed drug test

Fifteen-year-old Valieva, a breakout star of the Games who helped the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) take home gold in Monday’s figure skating team event, was allowed to compete despite testing positive for the banned heart drug trimetazidine, which is commonly used to treat people with angina, the ITA said in a statement.

The failed test only came to light during the Winter Olympics, and it remains unclear if the drug test controversy will see the medal revoked.

The scandal continues to delay the awarding of medals to all three teams, silver for Team USA and bronze for Team Japan.

“The decision on the results of the ROC team in the Team Figure Skating event can be taken…only after a final decision on the full merits of the case has been taken,” the ITA said.

The case will be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), with a decision needed before the figure skating star’s next event — the women’s singles short program — on Tuesday, in which she is favorite to take gold.

In that hearing, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will challenge a decision by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) to lift a provisional suspension on the skater, according to the ITA.

Responding to the controversy, the ROC said Valieva had “repeatedly passed doping tests” while already in Beijing and it is taking measures to keep Valieva’s “honestly won” gold.

“The doping test of an athlete who tested positive does not apply to the period of the Olympic Games. At the same time, the athlete repeatedly passed doping tests before and after December 25, 2021, including while already in Beijing during the figure skating tournament. All the results are negative,” the ROC statement said.

“The Russian Olympic Committee is taking comprehensive measures to protect the rights and interests of the members of the ROC Team, and to keep the honestly won Olympic gold medal.”

Why was Valieva allowed to compete?

The ITA, which leads the anti-doping program for the Beijing Winter Olympics, said Valieva’s drug sample was taken at the Russian Figure Skating Championships in Saint Petersburg on December 25.

However, it took until February 8 for a laboratory in Sweden to report it had detected a banned substance — one day after the ROC won gold at the team event in Beijing.

According to the ITA, Valieva tested positive for trimetazidine — a drug used to treat the heart condition angina, which causes chest pain due to poor blood flow to the heart. It is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) banned list.

Hormone and metabolic modulators are a class of drugs banned by WADA due to evidence of athletes using them for performance enhancement, as they can increase blood flow and improve endurance.

Trimetazidine: Drug banned by WADA makes 'your heart work more efficiently'

Valieva was immediately given a provisional suspension by Russia’s anti-doping agency, which automatically prohibits athletes from participation in all sports.

The figure skater challenged the suspension on February 9 and, at a hearing that same day, the Russian anti-doping agency decided to lift the provisional ban — allowing her to continue competing at the Olympics, according to the ITA.

At 15, Valieva is a minor and therefore considered a “Protected Person” under the World Anti-Doping Code, which means her name does not need to be disclosed to the public.

The ITA said it released her identity following media reports naming her based on “unofficial information,” and the ITA said it “acknowledges the necessity for official information due to heightened public interest.”

Official response

Russian athletes are unable to compete in the Olympics under their country’s name due to sanctions from the IOC and WADA as a result of the country’s “systemic manipulation” of anti-doping rules during the 2014 Sochi Games.

Speaking to journalists Friday, IOC Spokesperson Mark Adams said the governing body wanted to “expedite” the case.

“We hope that the whole issue can be expedited in the interest of every athlete, not just the Russians, but also in the interest of all of the athletes competing,” Adams said.

The International Skating Union said it will also exercise its right to appeal RUSADA’s decision to lift the ban on competing “and to ask CAS to reinstate the provisional suspension.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov would not confirm reports of a positive test among the Russian figure skating team on Thursday, saying: “The only primary source of information should be the IOC.”

“It (the reports) flared up among those who did not have verified information,” said Peskov. “As usual, not knowing the details, everyone began to yell far and wide. We will not join this orderly row of yellers.”

CNN’s Rebecca Wright, Christine Brennan and Nathan Hodge contributed reporting.

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