The Court of Arbitration for Sport issued its decision less than 12 hours after a hastily arranged hearing that lasted until early Monday morning that 15-year-old Valieva, the favorite for women’s individual gold, did not need a be temporarily suspended pending a full investigation.
The court ruled in her favor in part because she is a minor, known in Olympic jargon as a “protected person”, and is subject to different rules than an adult athlete.
“The panel found that preventing the Athlete from competing at the Olympics would cause him irreparable harm in the circumstances,” CAS Director General Matthieu Reeb said.
Now Valieva and her fellow Russian skaters can aim for the first women’s figure skating podium sweep in Olympic history. The event begins with the short program on Tuesday and ends Thursday with the free skate.
Shortly after the decision, Valieva skated in her training slot, under the supervision of her coach, Eteri Tutberidze. She completed her program without a fall and her skating drew some applause from the Russian media.
Reactions across the world ranged from support for the young skater to complaints that Russian doping had once again harmed a sporting event.
The CAS panel also cited fundamental issues of fairness in its decision, the fact that she was tested clean in Beijing and that there were “serious issues of untimely notification” of her positive test.
Valieva tested positive for the heart drug trimetazidine on December 25 during the Russian national championships, but the result from a Swedish lab was only revealed a week ago, after helping the Russian Olympic Committee to win team gold.
The reasons for the six-week wait for a result from Sweden are unclear, although Russian officials have suggested it was partly because of a January spike in omicron variant COVID-19 cases, which affected the staff.
In a statement on the decision, WADA suggested that RUSADA went off the rails by not reporting to the Stockholm lab that Valieva’s sample was a priority for testing so close to the Olympics.
His case has taken its toll at the Olympics since last Tuesday, when the team medal ceremony was removed from the schedule.
The Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA) immediately suspended her, then lifted the ban the next day, putting the awarding of medals in limbo. The IOC and others appealed and an expedited hearing was held on Sunday evening. Valieva testified by videoconference.
Athletes under 16 like Valieva have more rights under anti-doping rules and are generally not held responsible for taking banned substances. Any future investigation will focus on his personal team – coaches, doctors, nutritionists, etc.
This decision only concerns the question of whether Valieva can continue skating before her case is resolved. This does not decide the fate of the only gold medal she has already won.
Valieva landed the first quadruple jumps for a woman at the Olympics when she won the team gold medal with the Russian Olympic Committee last Monday. The United States won silver and Japan bronze. Canada placed fourth.
That medal, and any medals she wins in the individual competition, could still be taken away from her.
These issues will be addressed in a separate, longer-term investigation into the positive doping test to be conducted by RUSADA, which collected the sample in St. Petersburg.
The World Anti-Doping Agency will have the right to appeal any decision by RUSADA and has also said it wishes to independently investigate Valieva’s entourage.
Along with the Valieva case, issues raised by an often-proven doping culture in Russian sport have been a major theme for a sixth consecutive Olympic Games, including the past three winter editions in Sochi, Russia; Pyeongchang, South Korea; and now Beijing.
“This appears to be another chapter in Russia’s systematic and widespread disregard for clean sport,” U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland said in a statement.
Hirshland said the USOPC was “disappointed with the message sent by this decision” and suggested athletes were being denied the confidence of knowing they would be competing on equal footing.
At the rink on Tuesday, the ice dance competition was decided as CAS prepared its verdict.
Gold medalists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France and American bronze medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue offered “No comment”.
Nikita Katsalapov, who with Victoria Sinitsina won the silver medal for the Russians, simply said: “Come on Kamila!”
Hubbell and Donohue could see their silver medals switch to gold in the team competition if the Russians are stripped of their title at a later date.
“There’s no deal done yet, but I know everyone on the team wants to get the medals here as a team,” Hubbell said. “If we miss this opportunity, it’s a huge disappointment.”
The IOC had demanded that the whole Valieva doping case be resolved in Beijing, which was unrealistic. The IOC, however, can now postpone a team skating medal ceremony.
___ AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Beijing contributed to this report
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