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Kamila Valieva’s case heads to court with WADA frustrated with Russia

Russian skater Kamila Valieva reacts after faltering in the women's individual program at the Beijing Olympics. (Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
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Frustrated over delays to reach decisions publicly on Russian figure skating star Kamila Valieva’s positive test for a banned substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency appealed her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Tuesday.

The move means WADA is treating the delays as though the Russian Anti-Doping Agency has determined Valieva did not violate doping rules in the run-up to the Winter Games in Beijing.

The appeal is the latest chapter in a nine-month saga that has delayed the awarding of medals in the Olympic team figure skating event, which Valieva helped Russia win a day before her positive test became known to Olympic officials. WADA is seeking a four-year suspension of Valieva, dating from Dec. 25, 2021, meaning Russia will lose its gold medal if CAS upholds WADA’s appeal.

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WADA rules require anti-doping agencies to hold hearings six months after a positive test, and while WADA officials did not push the Russians through the late summer and early fall, they have become increasingly exasperated over the delay.

While it remains unclear whether it has held a hearing on Valieva’s case, RUSADA announced last month that it would not reveal the results regardless because she is a minor. Shortly thereafter, WADA threatened to go to CAS.

“Despite putting RUSADA under formal notice to resolve the Kamila Valieva case promptly, no progress was made,” WADA President Witold Banka said in announcing the appeal on Twitter.

The uncertainty of who will get the team event gold medals has angered the U.S. skaters who finished second, several of whom complained directly to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach about his group’s decision to not hold a ceremony in Beijing. Japan, which finished third, and Canada, which finished fourth, face similar uncertainty.

Valieva, now 16, tested positive for trimetazidine — a heart medication often given to older patients that is banned by WADA because it can help athletic performance — during the Russian figure skating championships Dec. 25. But delays at the Swedish lab analyzing her sample kept WADA from learning the results until Feb. 7, the final day of the Olympic team event.

RUSADA provisionally suspended Valieva on Feb. 8 but lifted the suspension the next day after Valieva and Russian Olympic officials raised questions about the lab’s delay in reporting the test results, a holdup IOC officials said was because of coronavirus-related staffing shortages at the lab.

On Feb. 11, the International Testing Agency and IOC asked CAS to reinstate Valieva’s provisional suspension. CAS eventually permitted Valieva to compete in the women’s individual program in Beijing, where she finished fourth after entering as a heavy favorite.