A possible doping controversy hangs over the Beijing Olympics

Olympic Games

There has been speculation that Americans will be elevated to gold.

Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee reacts in the women’s team free skating program during the figure skating competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, in Beijing. Valieva is at the center of the biggest Beijing Games doping story after Russian newspaper RBC reported that the figure skater tested positive for a banned heart drug ahead of the Olympics. Russian athletes are in Beijing competing under the name “Russian Olympic Committee” (ROC), after the country was banned due to a massive state-sponsored doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Games. AP Photo/David J. Phillip) The Associated Press

BEIJING — Controversy over a possible positive test for a banned substance threatened to envelop figure skating competition at the Beijing Olympics, even as officials refused to answer questions or, in some cases, even acknowledge developments of the situation.

After Russian media reported that Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva had tested positive in December for a banned substance, speculation about the possible consequences that would result dominated the conversation on Thursday morning at the Capital Indoor Stadium, where American star Nathan Chen won the men’s individual gold. . Despite winning gold in the team figure skating competition on Monday, Russian skaters have yet to receive their medals, a delay the International Olympic Committee attributed to an unresolved legal issue.

The three men’s medalists were asked about the situation after Thursday’s competition, although none had substantive answers.

Earlier today, an ROC figure skating press officer said: “We cannot comment on Kamila as we are awaiting the press release from the IOC.”

When the IOC held its daily briefing less than an hour later, spokesman Mark Adams was repeatedly asked about the situation and even refused to say which governing body was looking into the matter, as that would indicate the nature of the problem.

Later in the day, the International Skating Union said in a statement: “Referring to recent media reports regarding the figure skating team event, the International Skating Union cannot release any information on a possible anti-doping rule violation. This is in accordance with the ISU Anti-Doping Rules and the IOC Anti-Doping Rules for Beijing 2022.”

The lack of clarity, or even a timeline for a decision, hasn’t stopped some U.S. officials and competitors from joining in the rhetoric. The USA figure skating team finished behind the Russians in the team competition, and there was speculation that the Americans would be elevated to gold.

“When you talk about fair play, the rules are the rules,” said American figure skater Jason Brown, a two-time Olympian who did not compete in the team event in Beijing. “So I think 100 per cent – I hope there were no positive doping tests, but I think if there are, that’s plain and simple.”

Since the revelation of a state-sponsored doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Games, the presence of Russian athletes at the Olympics has been a source of debate. The country’s flag and national anthem have not been present at the last three Games, but large delegations of Russian athletes have been present at each of them – first as “Olympic athletes from Russia” in PyeongChang and under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee. in Tokyo and here.

“Truly, all the credibility of the Olympic movement and the Paralympic movement is about telling us that we truly believe and live the values ​​that we say we stand for,” said Susanne Lyons, chair of the board of directors of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, in an interview with the “Around the Rings” website. “And I just hope that’s what we see in this specific situation that’s happening today.”

USA Today quoted USOPC spokeswoman Kate Hartman as saying, “We don’t have all the details, but in situations like this, it’s more than gold. It’s about fair sport integrity and accountability.

Valieva, the 2022 European champion and Russian national champion, continued training in Beijing on Thursday. The 15-year-old entered these Olympics as a favorite for the gold medal in the women’s individual competition, which begins Tuesday with the short program. By leading the Russian team to gold in the team event, finishing first in both segments she entered, Valieva became the first woman to land a quadruple jump at the Olympics. She attempted three and landed two.

With no clarity from officials, there has been speculation that the delay in any sort of decision is at least partly due to Valieva’s underage status. Adams, the IOC spokesperson, said on Wednesday that the delay in awarding medals for the team competition involved an issue that “requires legal consultation with the ISU”.

Russian media reports that Valieva tested positive in December for trimetazidine, a banned substance that improves heart function in patients with heart disease. The drug, which can also be taken to relieve migraines, is said to improve performance in athletes as it can ease chest tightness resulting from hard training.

The consequences of a confirmed test on Valieva’s continued participation in the Olympics, as well as the impact on medals in the team competition, remain unclear. Asked when we can expect a resolution to these issues, Adams said: “It depends on the legal process. I’ve already explained that, I hope. I imagine everyone is trying to work as fast as they can. Everyone involved, especially the athletes involved, want this to lead to a good result, so we are working; the people involved work very, very fast.

He was then asked whether athletes were generally allowed to compete if they had tested positive for a banned substance before the Games.

“It depends on when it comes out,” he said. “I think if they’ve been found before, I guess not. I’m not an expert. I can submit it to the experts. But I guess someone who tested positive before the Games, it depends on a whole range of things.

Deflecting many questions about Valieva’s case, Adams repeatedly tried to steer the conversation toward what he called the early success of those Olympics.

“We don’t want to hear about the other stuff, but it does come up,” he said. “It’s life and so it has to be dealt with, it has to be dealt with properly, it has to be dealt with appropriately and transparently, in a legal way. And we’re going to deal with it and we’re going to deal with it. occupy as quickly as possible, but I don’t think that should be the case and that doesn’t take away from the magic of the Games.

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The Carpenters of The Washington Post contributed to this report.


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