The wait is over regarding the doping controversy that has rocked the 2022 Winter Olympic games for Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva. The 15-year-old phenom will compete in the Women’s individual Short Program on February 15th.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) held a hearing on Sunday night at 20:34 (Beijing time) which lasted for over six hours after receiving applications to appeal the lifting of the skater’s provisional suspension. The suspension was imposed by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) on February 8th and lifted the following day. The applications originated from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and the International Skating Union (ISU), respectively.
In the end, all applications filed were dismissed. The CAS Panel gave the following reasons for its decision:
1) It has affirmed the jurisdiction of the CAS Ad Hoc Division in this matter and has overruled the preliminary objections raised by the Athlete and the ROC in this regard;
2) On the basis of the very limited facts of this case, and after consideration of the relevant legal issues, it has determined that no provisional suspension should be imposed on the Athlete due
to the following exceptional circumstances:
a) The Athlete is a “Protected Person” under the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC);
b) The RUSADA Anti-Doping Rules and the WADC are silent with respect to provisional suspension imposed on protected persons, while these rules have specific provisions for different standards of evidence and for lower sanctions in the case of protected persons;
c) The Panel considered fundamental principles of fairness, proportionality, irreparable harm, and the relative balance of interests as between the Applicants and the Athlete, who did not test positive during the Olympic Games in Beijing and is still subject to a disciplinary procedure on the merits following the positive anti-doping test undertaken in December 2021; in particular, the Panel considered that preventing the Athlete from competing at the Olympic Games would cause her irreparable harm in these circumstances;
d) The CAS Panel also emphasized that there were serious issues of untimely notification of the results of the Athlete’s anti-doping test that was performed in December 2021 which impinged upon the Athlete’s ability to establish certain legal requirements for her benefit, while such late notification was not her fault, in the middle of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
3) In conclusion, the Panel determined that permitting the provisional suspension to remain lifted was appropriate.
The CAS Ad hoc Division was requested to determine the narrow issue as to whether a provisional suspension should be imposed on the athlete. It was not requested to rule on the merits of this case, nor to examine the legal consequences relating to the results of the team event in figure skating, as such issues will be examined in other proceedings.
The IOC then submitted a statement that as a result of the athlete competing in this complex situation, that: 1) it would not be “appropriate” to hold a medal ceremony for the Team Event during the 2022 Olympic Games, 2) if the athlete finishes in the top three, there would be no flower or medal ceremony during the 2022 Olympic Games, 3) in fairness, they would allow a 25th competitor to participate in the free skate. The statement went on to read that once the case was concluded, “organised dignified medal ceremonies” would take place.
How it unfolded
The debacle began when there was a delay in the medal ceremony for the figure skating Team Event which was to be held on Feb 8, 2022. The athlete participated in the Women’s discipline of the Team Event, winning both the Short Program and Free Skate to score 20 points for Team ROC. Team ROC won the gold by nine points ahead of Team USA and Team Japan. The IOC gave no reason for the delay of the award ceremony at the time.
Reports quickly emerged that there had been a positive doping test from one of the Russian skaters. It was later learned that the drug in question was—trimetazidine (sometimes called TMZ), and is on the banned list of WADA substances under the category of “hormone and metabolic modulators.” The drug is primarily used to prevent and treat the symptoms of angina, or chest pain that is the result of a lack of blood supply and oxygen to the heart. It is also widely used in the treatment of coronary artery disease.
The IOC stayed mum, citing “legal issues” on February 10th, but it was later revealed that the skater was a minor, and Valieva is the only minor on the ROC team. Things picked up the following day which was filled with a flutter of statements from the RUSADA, the International Testing Agency (ITA), WADA, ISU, and CAS.
RUSADA maintained that a provisional suspension was put on the athlete on February 8th upon receipt of notification from the Stockholm Anti-Doping Laboratory of the positive test (which had been taken on December 25, 2021). In line with the IOC Anti-Doping Rules, the ITA immediately informed the athlete that the provisional suspension imposed on her by RUSADA was binding upon the IOC and the athlete was prevented from competing, training, coaching, or participating in any activity, during the Olympic Winter Games.
The athlete challenged the provisional suspension on February 9th before the Disciplinary Committee of RAA RUSADA. A hearing was held that day and the temporary suspension was immediately lifted. RUSADA stated that a full-fledged investigation would still be conducted, but in the meantime, the athlete had the right to train and take part in the competition unless the CAS decided otherwise. It was also noted that a doping test taken after the European Figure Skating Championships last month was negative, as was the test which was taken during the Olympic games.
However, the IOC was not interested in waiting for the “reasoned decision” by RUSADA for the lifted suspension due to the fact that the Women’s Figure Skating event is scheduled to take place on February 15th. As such, the IOC immediately exercised their right to appeal in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code. Following the delegation of the IOC’s anti-doping program in relation to the Olympic Games to the ITA, the ITA announced they would lead the appeal before CAS on behalf of the IOC.
WADA exercised their right to an appeal as well, and both applications were received at the CAS Ad Hoc Division on February 11th at 20:45 (IOC) and 22:20 (WADA). The ISU followed suit with their application being received on February 12th at 09:15.
On February 12th, with three applications filed, the CAS announced a panel of of arbitrators and set a hearing date of February 13 at 20:30 (Beijing time) by video conference. Fabio Iudica (ITA) was the presiding President, while Jeffrey Benz (USA) and Dr Vesna Bergant Rakočeviċ (SLO) were named as the arbitrators.
One can only assume how the teenager has been dealing with the inevitable barrage of emotions amidst the turmoil of press and social media over the past week.
Valieva came under the tutelage of renowned coach Eteri Tutberidze and her group of young “quadsters” in the spring of 2018. Since then, she has achieved, and still holds, a record score for the Short Program, Free Skate and Total Score in the Women’s discipline. The skater, who took gold at the 2022 European Figure Skating Championships, remains undefeated internationally since she began competing in the 2019-20 season.
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