After Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva landed the top spot after the first day of competition in the women’s singles event Tuesday—despite testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug prior to the 2022 Olympics—top figure skaters questioned why she was allowed to compete, while Russian athletes and officials applauded the decision.
Several Russian athletes and officials applauded the decision to let Valieva compete. Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin welcomed “the only right and fair decision” to allow her to compete in the individual event. Russia’s 2002 Olympic champion Alexei Yagudin said he was “extremely happy” she was cleared to perform. “She needs to forget everything and just show her level,” Yagudin said. “What will happen after the Olympics is not important right now.” Russian ice dancer Nikita Katsalapov also backed his teammate, saying “Let’s go Kamila!”
Valieva tested positive in December for trimetazidine, a drug used to treat chest pain due to reduced blood flow to the heart, stemming from a drug test. The World Anti-Doping Agency banned the substance in 2014 because it can help improve endurance and increase blood flow. The positive test result was not known until after she helped lead the ROC to the top of the podium in the team performance event, where she became the first woman to land a quadruple jump—making her a gold medal favorite in the individual competition. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Valieva can compete in the single skating event because of “exceptional circumstances,” including the 15-year-old’s status as a “Protected Person” under the WADA code, and because she had not tested positive for drugs during the Olympics. The CAS ruling also listed “irreparable harm” to the athlete if she was barred from competition, and noted “serious issues” with how long it took to notify officials of her positive test. Valieva argued her positive test was due to contamination with her grandfather’s heart medication, according to International Olympics Committee officials.
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The IOC decided there will be no medal ceremony for the women’s singles event in the case Valieva finishes in the top three, and has postponed the medal ceremony for the team event, where the ROC finished on top of the podium. Canadian pairs skater Meagan Duhamel called for athletes from the U.S. and Japan to receive their medals for their team performances before the Games end, and for the individual athletes who are not representing the ROC to also get a medal ceremony. Duhamel wrote in a tweet if Sakamoto remains in the top three in the women’s singles, “She won’t get ANY medal ceremony, because she’s being punished for ROC’s behavior? And that is the right thing to do?”
U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson questioned why Valieva was allowed to continue competing in the games, after Richardson’s positive test for marijuana barred her from competing in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Richardson accepted a one-month ban following the positive test—derailing her Olympic dreams—and later said she used the drug to cope with the death of her mother. “Can we get a solid answer on the difference of [Valieva’s] situation and mines?” Richardson said in a tweet. “My mother died and I can’t run and was also favored to place top 3. The only difference I see is I’m a black young lady.”
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