Despite testing positive for trimetazidine, a performance-enhancing heart drug banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva has been cleared to compete in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
The 15-year-old will take part in the women’s individual event from Tuesday, where she is considered the favorite for the gold medal. The IOC, however, has already announced that there will be no medal ceremony if Valieva wins a medal.
A three-person panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Monday upheld the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s decision to lift a provisional suspension that had barred Valieva from competing. CAS stressed that it made its decision for reasons of procedural fairness and to avoid “irreparable harm”. Along those lines, CAS noted that it did not assess the merits of the case. Future proceedings, the panel warned, will examine the merits and could lead to retroactive disqualification.
Valieva, 15, took a drug test on December 25 to Russian nationals in St. Petersburg. For reasons yet to be determined, the results of the sample, which was examined by a WADA-approved laboratory in Sweden, were not revealed until February 8. Over the next 45 days, Valieva passed tests and helped the Russian Olympic Committee. Russia is not allowed to compete as a country due to previous doping scandals – win a gold medal in the team figure skating event.
RUSADA had imposed a provisional suspension on February 8 after learning of the test. After review by officials in Moscow, the agency lifted the suspension on February 9.
In making its decision, CAS emphasized that Valieva is a “protected person” under the WADA Code and therefore deserves friendlier treatment. The code defines such a person as an athlete “who, at the time of the anti-doping rule violation: (i) is under the age of sixteen (16); (ii) has not reached the age of eighteen (18) and is not included in a registered group of testers and has never participated in an international event in an open category; or (iii) for reasons other than age, it has been determined that he lacks legal capacity under applicable national law. »
CAS pointed out that neither RUSADA nor WADA rules contemplate Provisional Suspensions imposed on Protected Persons. Likewise, he argued that Valieva could suffer “irreparable harm” if she was denied a chance to compete and later cleared. Irreparable harm means a type of harm that cannot be remedied later, even by monetary damages. Here, if Valieva cannot participate in the 2022 Olympics, she will never be able to participate in these Olympics again.
In addition, CAS noted that Valieva is not responsible for the “serious issues of untimely notification” and that the delay in this notification – made “in the middle” of the Olympics – “impinged” on its ability to challenge the finding. .
Although called a “court”, CAS is technically not a court or tribunal. The CAS is an arbitral body that oversees legal challenges related to the Olympic Games and international sports competitions. Its referees come from countries all over the world. The three who ruled Valieva came from Italy, Slovenia, and the United States.
In a strong rebuke of the Valieva decision, US Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland expressed concern “about the message this decision sends”. She feared that the “right” of athletes “to know that they were competing on an equal footing” was “denied”.
The Valieva decision will certainly spark new debates in the days and weeks to come. While Valieva may not be to blame, one wonders if she should be treated more favorably due to her youth. She competes as an Olympian, alongside athletes of different ages. The Olympics do not offer competitive advantages to young athletes or to older athletes. If countries believe that young athletes are less likely to be punished for cheating, this would create incentives to exploit this circumstance.
Valieva is coached by Russian coach Eteri Tutberidze, who, although very successful, has been critical for its methods and techniques. Tutberidze’s critics insist she relies on abusive ploys, such as pressuring injured and ill skaters to compete, which are particularly inappropriate for younger skaters.