US officials, Olympians slam Kamila Valieva decision

(Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled on Monday that Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva can continue to compete in the Beijing Games after testing positive for a banned substance prior to the Olympics, sparking outrage across the sports world.

The 15-year-old tested positive for trimetazidine, a substance banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency for its ability to help with endurance, during the Russian Figure Skating Championships in Saint Petersburg on Dec. 25. The test wasn’t reported by a Stockholm laboratory until Feb. 8, after the Beijing Olympics had begun.

While Valieva is permitted to compete in Beijing, medal ceremonies for events in which she places first through third will be postponed until her case is resolved. The Russian figure skating star led the Russian Olympic Committee to gold in the team event earlier in the Olympics, though the award ceremony has yet to be held.

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee was one of the first organizations to respond to Monday’s ruling.

“We are disappointed by the message this decision sends,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said. “It is the collective responsibility of the entire Olympic community to protect the integrity of sport and to hold our athletes, coaches and all involved to the highest of standards. Athletes have the right to know they are competing on a level playing field. Unfortunately today that right is being denied. This appears to be another chapter in the systemic and pervasive disregard for clean sport by Russia.”

Travis Tygart of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) echoed the USOPC’s statement, placing the blame on Russia.

“Russia has hijacked the competition and stolen the moment from clean athletes and the public,” he said. “In addition to athletes and the public, this young athlete has been terribly let down by the Russians and the global anti-doping system that unfairly cast her into this chaos.”

Athletes have also been vocal about the CAS ruling, with former American figure skater and NBC broadcaster Tara Lipinski tweeting that she strongly disagrees with the decision. Lipinski won gold in the individual figure skating competition, the event for which Valieva is favored, at the 1998 Olympics.

“At the end of the day, there was a positive test and there is no question in my mind that she should not be allowed to compete,” Lipinski wrote. “Regardless of age or timing of the test/results. I believe this will leave a permanent scar on our sport.”

Three-time rowing Olympian Gevvie Stone said in a tweet that her solution would be to “ban the entire ROC figure skating team.”

“It’s clear Valieva didn’t act alone as a minor,” she wrote, “and also clear Russia continues to gain an unfair advantage by doping.”

Two-time Olympic medalist Yuna Kim of Korea also spoke out, writing on social media, “Athlete who violate doping cannot compete in the game. This principle must be observed without exception. All players’ efforts and dreams are equally precious.”

Valieva is set to compete in the women’s individual figure skating event in Beijing on Tuesday.