Kamila Valieva avoided suspension from participation in the individual tournament of the Beijing Olympics. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has refused appeals from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Skating Union (ISU) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) over the denial of a 15-year-old figure skater who tested positive in December. for the banned drug trimetazidine. One of the reasons for this decision CAS called the “untimely notification” of the athlete about the results of the doping test: it happened in the middle of last week, after the team tournament that was victorious for the Russians. However, the intrigue with the complex case of Kamila Valieva will continue after the end of the Olympics. The fate of the gold of the Russian team and the status of the skater herself depend on future proceedings at CAS, and these proceedings will take place against the backdrop of serious pressure from a number of structures that do not hide dissatisfaction with the arbitration verdict.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport has published its decision (.pdf) in the most high-profile and confusing case of the Beijing Olympics. The decision was the result of a six-hour videoconference hearing the day before, which CAS initiated following appeals from the International Olympic Committee, the International Skating Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency to the Supreme Sports Arbitration Body. These structures insisted on the return of Kamila Valieva, the main star of the Russian figure skating team, by virtue of a temporary suspension from participation in competitions, that is, on the non-admission to the individual singles tournament of the invincible favorite this season, who over the past months has several times updated world records in terms of the amount of points scored. for the execution of points programs. The tournament will start on Tuesday with the short program.
The scandal, in the center of which Kamila Valieva found herself, broke out last week, when it became known that the athlete’s doping test taken on December 25 during the Russian Championship in St. Petersburg, analyzed by the Stockholm laboratory, gave a positive result for the banned drug trimetazidine. At the same time, by that time, the Olympic team figure skating tournament had already ended in Beijing. In it, Kamila Valieva made a huge contribution to the victory of the Russian team, excelling in both programs.
Due to the news of her doping test, the IOC has not yet held an official awards ceremony for the winners of the tournament, effectively leaving its results suspended.
However, the Disciplinary Anti-Doping Committee of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (DAK RUSADA) immediately canceled the initial decision to suspend Kamila Valieva for anti-doping violations, whose representatives, including the famous mentor Eteri Tutberidze, confidently declared the athlete’s innocence. It was this step that did not suit the IOC and a number of other organizations. The case was complicated by the fact that, according to the World Anti-Doping Code, 15-year-old Kamila Valieva belongs to the category of so-called protected persons – athletes under the age of 16. Sanctions against them can be much softer than against others.
The verdict published by CAS should, apparently, be considered a rather significant victory for the Russian side, given the weight of the organizations that opposed it. The arbitral tribunal dismissed their appeal, supporting the refusal with a number of arguments. The main one seems to be a remark about “late notification of the results of a doping test.”
According to the arbitrators, he had a negative impact on the athlete’s ability to protect her rights, in fact, leaving her no time for this.
CAS Secretary General Mathieu Ribe even dwelled on this circumstance separately in his speech on the grounds of the short process. He noted that the process simply would not have happened “if all anti-doping procedures were completed, as is usually the case before the Olympic Games, within a week – ten days.” And it was precisely this circumstance that the president of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) Stanislav Pozdnyakov pointed out earlier. He called the delay in the analysis of the sample of Kamila Valieva, who already passed several negative tests in January, “very strange”.
In addition, CAS, following the “fundamental principles of fairness and proportionality”, considered that the exclusion of Kamila Valieva from the competition would be tantamount to causing “irreparable harm in the circumstances.”
Thus, Valieva will perform in a personal tournament along with two compatriots who also claim his awards – Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova.
The reaction of Russian athletes to the outcome of the process was understandable and predictable. Oleg Matytsin, Minister of Sports of the Russian Federation, described the CAS decision as “the only true and fair one”, adding that the arbitrators “showed integrity and professionalism.” In his opinion, “the decision taken demonstrates the understanding and supremacy of Olympic values, which are based on mutual respect, solidarity, and protection of the interests of athletes.”
The ROC statement on the “Valiyeva case” stated that the structure that was the defendant in the process defended the point of view according to which “taking into account all the circumstances, the decision to lift the temporary suspension is absolutely justified and fully complies with the general legal fundamental principles of fairness, good faith and proportionality.” The ROC, however, considers “it is extremely important to conduct a full-fledged objective investigation to establish all the circumstances of the situation with a positive doping test of an athlete.”
However, the outcome of the Peking process is not exactly a big final victory for Russia. In this sense, the last paragraph of the CAS verdict is of key importance. In it, the arbitral tribunal emphasized that it had only answered a “narrow question” about the legality of the temporary suspension of Kamila Valieva. Critical aspects of the case, including “legal implications relating to the results of the team figure skating tournament,” will be “considered at other meetings.” That is, the intrigue with the status of Russian gold and Valieva herself remains. At the same time, it is already obvious that “other meetings” may take place against a backdrop that is unfavorable for the Russian side.
Immediately after the announcement of the CAS verdict, several prominent organizations and functionaries expressed their disagreement with it. So, the executive director of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), Sarah Hirshland, commenting on it, said that, in her opinion, it was about “a new chapter in history with a systematic and comprehensive disrespect for “clean” sports in Russia”, referring to doping crisis that has tormented the domestic sports industry since the middle of the last decade. Due to the most recent package of sanctions, which expire this year, the Russian team performs at the Beijing Olympics, as well as at last year’s summer in Tokyo, formally in a neutral status, as an ROC team. Ms. Hirshland has no doubts that the admission of Kamila Valieva “violates the rights of “clean” athletes to equal playing conditions.” In a similar rhetoric, the President of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), Trisha Smith, said that she was “deeply disappointed” by the CAS verdict.
The decision of the arbitration was sharply criticized by Global Athlete, a large association that is quite successfully fighting for the rights of athletes.
It blamed WADA, the IOC and CAS for the scandal, noting that there would be no emergency if they “did their job and kicked Russia out of world sports” for its doping violations.
The World Anti-Doping Agency generally made it clear that it regards the CAS verdict as illegal, highlighting two points. The first is that the World Anti-Doping Code does not provide for “no exceptions” for “protected persons” due to provisional suspensions. The second is that, according to WADA, RUSADA, and not any other organization, is responsible for the delay in the St. Petersburg test. The lead anti-doping agency claims that Kamila Valieva’s sample sent to Stockholm was not marked as “priority” for urgent analysis. Because of this, allegedly, there was a delay. WADA also reminded RUSADA of its obligation to investigate the activities of Kamila Valieva’s “entourage” in connection with the incident.
And the decision of its executive committee ideally tells about the position of the IOC. He said that the awards ceremony for figure skaters after the free program in the singles tournament on February 17 would not take place if Kamila Valieva was in the top three.
Sports manager Andrey Mitkov does not exclude in connection with these events that “the battle won by Russia in Beijing will eventually turn into a lost war.” “On the one hand, for Camila, a talented figure skater, I am very happy. On the other hand, all the reservations about her – about her young age, about the fact that the drug does not help to do quadruple jumps, about its minimum dose – do not cancel the fact that there is a positive test, there is a violation of anti-doping rules, – he told Kommersant. Imagine what will happen if she wins, and then, in six months or a year, CAS will deprive her, and maybe the team of gold medals. It will be a huge buzz. Protests can follow from either side. And this will hurt many people, especially Valieva.”