CAS blames ‘untenable’ testing delay in Kamila Valieva verdict

(Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Court of Arbitration for Sport released its verdict on the decision to allow Kamila Valieva to compete at the Beijing Olympics on Friday, citing an “untenable delay” at the testing laboratory in Sweden.

In the verdict, the judges who ruled on the case blamed anti-doping officials for “a failure to function effectively.”

Valieva’s sample arrived at the lab on Dec. 29, however her test result was only revealed during the Olympics. The lab’s staffing has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 15-year-old had been cleared to skate on Monday after testing positive for a banned substance, trimetazidine. Valieva’s lawyers suggested the positive test was due to contamination from her grandfather’s medications. In the CAS document, they suggested that the contamination could have happened “through dishes used by the Athlete and the Athlete’s grandfather (through drinking liquid from the same glass, as well).”

The New York Times, however, reported that Valieva’s sample included three substances sometimes used to help the heart, with only one being a banned substance.

“Put simply, athletes should not be subject to the risk of serious harm occasioned by anti-doping authorities’ failure to function effectively at a high level of performance and in a manner designed to protect the integrity of the operation of the Games,” the verdict states.

Valieva later finished fourth overall in the individual competition after a mistake-filled free skate.

Additionally, Valieva’s status as a minor, or “protected person,” under the anti-doping code helped her case. The standard of proof for a minor is much lower than for an adult making a similar claim.

Valieva had previous negative tests, including on Jan. 13 at the European Championships and Feb. 7 in Beijing.

Again on Friday, the World Anti-Doping Agency slammed Russian officials, saying they should share blame for the delayed result because they “did not flag the high-priority nature of the sample despite being informed by the laboratory of delays being caused by a COVID-19 outbreak among its staff.”