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Russian figure skaters lose Olympic Gold after Valiyeva’s disqualification over doping

The Russian flag. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The International Skating Union (ISU) has demoted the Russian figure-skating team that competed in the Beijing Olympics in 2022 from gold to bronze because of the disqualification of Russian teen skater Kamila Valiyeva for a doping offense.

On January 29, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled in favor of a four-year suspension for Valiyeva, effective from December 2021, for doping.

A day later, the ISU said that without the points Valiyeva scored in the team event, Russia was being moved down to third place, pushing the United States into the top spot, followed by Japan.

Valiyeva, now 17, tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine in December 2021, with the results only becoming known after her Olympics victory. Trimetazidine, a heart medication, is a banned substance, as it can boost endurance.

Since the test results came right after the team event, medals were never awarded as a protracted legal battle over the case commenced.

“The ISU welcomes the decision of CAS and firmly maintains its position that the protection of clean athletes and the fight against doping are of the highest priority and will persist in the ongoing effort to uphold the integrity of fair competition and the well-being of athletes,” the skating body said.

“The ISU is in close contact with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the relevant ISU member federations in regard to the implementation of this decision.”

It added that the decision meant Vasilyeva was disqualified from her fourth-place showing in the women’s singles event in Beijing, and from her first-place finish at the European Championships in 2022.

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) said on January 30 it would appeal the ISU decision to strip it of an Olympic gold medal, stressing that its lawyers were preparing to contest the decision.

“Our position is based on the fact that due to the ISU’s existing and applicable regulations, consequences of the decision to impose sanctions on an individual athlete, in this case Kamila Valiyeva, cannot be grounds for a revision of the results of the team tournament. Our legal standpoint is also based on existing precedents in CAS practice,” the ROC said in a statement.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia should use “any opportunities to challenge” the decision and “defend our athletes’ rights.”

“We do not agree with these decisions — neither with the decision of the court, nor with the decision of the federation. We don’t accept them,” Peskov said, adding that the Russian skating team “will always remain as champions for us, no matter what sort of decision they make there.”

Russian athletes have been mired in doping scandals for the past decade after revelations of a state-backed system across many sports when the country hosted the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

An investigation into the issue led to Russian athletes being forced to prove they were “clean” and they had to compete as neutrals under a Russian Olympic Committee banner — they were banned from using the Russian name, flag, or anthem — in subsequent Games as part of IOC sanctions.