Ns News Online Desk: Kamila Valieva can compete again at the Winter Olympics after sport’s highest court ruled “exceptional circumstances” meant the 15-year-old Russian figure skater should not be provisionally suspended for a failed drugs test.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) pointed to age and issues around timing of the test result announcement in the reasons for its ruling.
But critics have questioned why an athlete who has failed a drugs test is being allowed to compete on the world’s biggest stage.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) said it was “disappointed” by the ruling, saying it “appears that the Cas panel decided not to apply the terms of the Code, which does not allow for specific exceptions to be made in relation to mandatory provisional suspensions for ‘protected persons’, including minors.”
Valieva, who returned a positive test for angina-prevention drug trimetazidine on 25 December last year, had been provisionally suspended on 8 February but challenged the decision and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) lifted the ban the next day.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), Wada and International Skating Union launched an appeal against Rusada’s decision to lift the provisional suspension, which is what Cas has now turned down.
Cas director general Matthieu Reeb said: “The athlete should benefit from the following exceptional circumstances: She is under 16 and a protected person under the Wada code.”
The ruling said “serious issues of untimely notification of the results” of the failed test – which came during the Games and nearly six weeks after she gave the sample – had also played a part in its decision.
“Such late notification was not her fault, in the middle of the Olympic Winter Games,” the ruling said. American 1998 Olympic champion figure skater Tara Lipinski, said she strongly disagreed with the decision, adding: At the end of the day, there was a positive test and there is no question in my mind that she should not be allowed to compete.”
Valieva is now free to compete on Tuesday in the women’s individual figure skating competition, where she is favorite for gold.
While her immediate Olympic future has been resolved, this case that has overshadowed the Games and provoked outrage at how a child became embroiled in a case of suspected doping is far from over.
Wada has already said it will be investigating the teenager’s entourage, including coaches, doctors and other adults surrounding her, while the actual matter of the failed test is yet to be resolved.
There is also the issue of the team event medals which will not be handed out during the Games, with Valieva having helped the Russian Olympic Committee to victory before the test announcement.
And there will also be wider debates given a Russian has tested positive for a banned substance when the country is already banned from international competition because of its doping past.
Its 212-strong delegation in Beijing is competing under the Russian Olympic Committee flag and without its national anthem as part of the sanctions.