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What You Need to Know About the Kamila Valieva Case

If you are anything like me, then you probably have not been keeping up with the Beijing Winter Olympics. I enjoy watching recap videos online, but I would not consider myself an expert on any of the events or athletes.

But now, one young figure skater is making headlines after a drug test came back positive for an illegal substance. If you are just as confused as I was about the facts regarding the case, here is everything you need to know.

Kamila Valieva is a 15-year old Russian figure skater who has been regarded as one of the best of her time, setting nine world records during her career thus far. During the figure skating team event, she landed the hardest jump in figure skating, a quadruple jump, twice during her routine, leading to a gold medal for the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

On Feb. 9, Moscow press reported that Valieva tested positive for trimetazidine (commonly known as TMZ), which is a banned substance used for angina, a symptom of coronary heart disease. The drug reportedly increases stamina and endurance, which could provide an unfair advantage to athletes who take it. It was banned for use in competition in 2014 and fully banned by 2015.

The International Testing Agency (ITA) confirmed that Valieva failed the drug test in December and that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) had issued a suspension for the incident. Valieva successfully appealed and was permitted to compete in the Olympics, but the appeal was called into question, and it was up to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to decide if Valieva would be allowed to compete moving forward.

Russian and Olympic officials argued that the presence of TMZ may have been a mistake. However, the laboratory that examined Valieva’s sample also found the presence of two other substances, Hypoxen and L-carnitine, both known to increase endurance and reduce fatigue.

Although Hypoxen and L-carnitine are not banned, the discovery of several substances used to boost endurance suggests an intentional regimen— not a mistake.

In a shocking decision, the court decided that Valieva would be allowed to skate in the women’s single skating competition. However, if she were to place in the top three, there would be no medals awarded until a full investigation was complete.

That also meant that there will not be a medal ceremony for the team skate competition, which leaves second-place United States, third-place Japan and fourth-place Canada unsure of their current standings for the event.

The full investigation will look at whether she violated the World Anti-Doping Code. If found guilty, she could be disqualified from all Olympic events and be ineligible to compete for up to two years.

These current allegations only add to the already long list of times Russia has been caught doping in sports. Russia has had 150 Olympic athletes caught cheating, leading to 46 medals being stripped.

The ROC, the team Valieva and all other Russian athletes compete under, is a neutral team not competing on behalf of Russia following a two-year ban from world sports competitions. The ban came from the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2019 for the country’s state-sponsored doping program.

Since Valieva is under 16 (known as a “protected person”), it is her team that is investigated, not her. There is doubt that Valieva even knew she was doping and many point the blame at the adults in her life, primarily her coach, Eteri Tutberidze.

Tutberidze is the head coach at the “Sambo 70” skating club in Moscow, where Valieva trains. She is well-known for working with some of Russia’s best figure skaters, including Yulia Lipnitskaya, Evgenia Medvedeva and Alina Zagitova.

Although her students have become World Champions and Olympic medalists, many are injured and retired by the age of 18. Her former skaters have come out and said that Tutberidze’s strict regimen includes dehydration and starvation in order to keep skaters thin, which leads to higher rates of debilitating injuries that cut their careers short.

The women’s single skating competition took place in two parts: the short program and the free skate. Although Valieva placed first in the short program portion, she stumbled on the ice during her performance in the free skate, leading to a fourth-place finish. Two ROC skaters, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, placed first and second respectively, both trained by Tutberidze.

The investigation into Valieva will be led by RUSADA. The World-Anti Doping Agency will have the right to appeal any ruling by RUSADA and they plan to launch their own investigation into Valieva’s entourage. It is unknown when this investigation will be complete, but it will surely be a case to look out for.

Emma is a freshman from Randolph, New Jersey, pursuing a major in Digital and Print Journalism. When she's not writing you can find her watching Big Brother, making microwave popcorn or calling her mom.
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