Kamila Valieva shined in her first performance at the Olympics.
The Russian figure skating wunderkind became the first woman to land a quadruple jump in her figure skating routine at just 15 years old and secured a score of 178.92. That performance helped the ROC claim the gold medal with 74 points in the team figure skating competition, edging out the U.S. (65 points) and Japan (63 points).
But after the event, the International Testing Agency reported that Valieva had trimetazidine, a banned heart medication, in her system during an event in December. She had been suspended by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, but the decision was reversed.
Now, she’s lined up for a legal hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. It could eliminate her from the rest of competition and possibly take away the gold medal earned by the ROC.
Here’s everything to know about the latest doping controversy involving a Russian athlete, and what makes it such a complicated situation at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Kamila Valieva Olympics doping case, explained
At the center of the Valieva case is the fact that she tested positive prior to the Olympics.
During the Russian Figure Skating Championships in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Dec. 25, 2021, Valieva tested positive for trimetazidine. The results of the test did not come in until Tuesday, a day after the team event, prompting Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency to ban her indefinitely. Valieva appealed the decision, and her ban was lifted on Wednesday.
The positive test had come from a lab in Sweden, with the Russian agency reporting that the delay had been due to the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press. The hospital overseeing the lab told the AP it could not comment on a pending case.
Because of the positive test, the AP reported that Valieva is expected to have a national title she won back in December revoked.
The ROC released a statement saying that since Dec. 25, Valieva had passed doping tests prior to and since that competition, and that all of them came back negative. It said the original suspension on Tuesday was made because a final decision in her case had yet to be determined and after an expedited hearing, the RUSADA decided to cancel the suspension. Because she has tested negative since then and her positive test was not taken during the Olympics, the ROC said Valieva’s results should not be called into question.
“At present, an athlete has the right to train and take part in competitions in full without restrictions, unless the Court of Arbitration for Sport decides otherwise regarding her status in relation to the Olympic Games,” the ROC said in the statement.
In an interview with The New York Times, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart called the situation a “complete catastrophic failure to athletes and public confidence” and said it was “total gross incompetence” for the lab results to take over a month to report. Tygart said that given the upcoming Olympics, the results should have been expedited.
“It’s heartbreaking, because this didn’t need to happen and shouldn’t have happened,” Tygart told The Times.
When is Kamila Valieva’s hearing?
The tumultuous situation has led to a hearing by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that is expected to be expedited. Given that Valieva is slated to compete next Tuesday, the IOC needed to appeal the ruling by the RUSADA to overturn her ban, which it did through the International Testing Agency.
“The IOC will exercise its right to appeal and not to wait for the reasoned decision by RUSADA, because a decision is needed before the next competition the athlete is due to take part in,” the ITA said, according to the AP.
According to Reuters, a six-member panel of three men and three women will hold a closed-door hearing at the Continental Grand Hotel and come up with a decision on her future before she competes in her next event. There has been no reporting on when, exactly, the hearing will be held.
The Associated Press reported that the hearing will consider the question of the ban at the Olympics that was handed to Valieva and quickly lifted. It also reported that because Valieva is a minor, her coaches and team doctors will also need to be investigated. Valieva could also only receive a reprimand due to protections under the World Anti-Doping Code as a minor, the AP reports.
The possible punishment facing Valieva or the ROC is currently unknown.
A decision on the team event will take longer, however, with first an investigation set to be held by the RUSADA, then a possible appeal and another case for the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
What is trimetazidine?
Trimetazidine is an antianginal drug that increases blood flow to the heart, according to Reuters. The drug is commonly used to treat heart conditions.
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital medical toxicology professor Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor said in the report that in sports using a lot of energy, it can “help your heart function better theoretically.” Reuters also reported that it has been on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances since 2014.
Tygart explained to The Times that Valieva would have needed to file paperwork prior to her testing if she was taking trimetazidine due to the recommendation of a doctor.
In The Times report, it said Chinese gold medalist swimmer Sun Yang and Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva have each been banned for using the drug.
Kamila Valieva’s Olympics schedule
Valieva has already competed in several events at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, and she currently has at least two more planned before the end of the Games. Valieva is considered a heavy gold-medal favorite for both individual events if she is allowed to compete.
- Feb. 5 — Figure Skating: Team women’s short program qualification
- Feb. 6 — Figure Skating: Team women’s free skate final
- Feb. 15 — Figure Skating: Women’s singles short program
- Feb. 17 — Figure Skating: Women’s singles free skate