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Kamila Valieva acknowledged taking two permitted substances for heart

Kamila Valieva practices ahead of Tuesday night's short program. (David J. Phillip/AP)
4 min

BEIJING — When Russian figure skating star Kamila Valieva provided a sample that later tested positive for a prohibited drug, she acknowledged taking two other substances sometimes used to help heart function but not on the banned list, according to a filing by the World Anti-Doping Agency. This document outlined WADA’s stance as it challenged Valieva’s eligibility to compete at the Olympics and provided insight into the 15-year-old’s defense.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that, despite testing positive for the banned substance trimetazidine, Valieva could continue participating at the Games — citing her age, the irreparable harm if she was suspended and later found innocent, and the timing of the news that didn’t allow for a full legal process. Valieva is the gold medal favorite in the figure skating women’s competition and is in the lead after Tuesday’s short program.

Even though Valieva provided this urine sample Dec. 25, the lab did not report its result until last week, prompting this expedited hearing during the Games. WADA’s filing posted to Dossier Center, a website run by Russian opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky, appeared to shed more light on the case. The document was said to be authentic by a person with direct knowledge of the case.

According to WADA’s filing, Valieva declared three products on her doping control form: L-carnitine and hypoxen, which are not banned by WADA and can be used to improve endurance, along with supradyn, a multivitamin. According to the document, Valieva’s mother said during a hearing on the case that Valieva took hypoxen to treat “heart variations.”

To Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the presence of the other substances — and the concentration of trimetazidine in Valieva’s system — suggested a regimen, not contamination. The document noted that Valieva tested positive for 2.1 nanograms of trimetazidine per milliliter, which he said was “clearly not trace amounts.”

“That seems to be, particularly for a 15-year-old, a pretty deliberate cocktail of substances,” Tygart said. “These new facts — the level, the other substances being used — clearly suggest something far more nefarious than just an innocent contamination.”

During a hearing, according to an audio recording cited in the document, Valieva’s explanation for her positive test was that her grandfather was a regular user of trimetazidine, the banned heart medication, to which she “must have somehow been inadvertently exposed.” According to WADA’s filing, Valieva’s grandfather appeared in recorded video taken in a car, and he claimed to use trimetazidine when he suffered from “attacks,” and he showed a packet of the medication to the camera. Valieva’s mother testified that her daughter spends significant time with her grandfather.

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According to the filing, two experts claimed that the concentration of the substance in Valieva’s sample was “compatible with contamination,” but they conceded that it was “also compatible with the end of the excretion period after a full dose of trimetazidine.”

WADA argued in its filing that “it is not sufficient for an athlete to simply identify a potential source” for how the substance was found in her sample. The anti-doping agency claimed that Valieva fell “well short of establishing that her grandfather’s medication was the source of the trimetazidine” and that “there is inadequate evidence that her grandfather was even using trimetazidine.”

The lawyer whom the document identified as representing Valieva did not respond to a request seeking comment. A WADA spokesman said Tuesday evening that the agency had no new comment on the case.

Valieva’s doping case remains ongoing. The court ruling that allowed her to compete was only meant to determine her eligibility in Beijing. She has already led the Russian Olympic Committee to the gold medal in the team event, and she’s on her way to another medal in the women’s competition. But the International Olympic Committee has already said it will not award medals in the team event or in the women’s competition, if Valieva is among the top three finishers, until her case is resolved. That’s a rare, drastic measure that seems to indicate Olympic officials are considering the possibility that Valieva will be retroactively disqualified.

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