ASSOCIATED PRESS / RAFU WIRE SERVICES
BEIJING – Russian teenager Kamila Valieva has been cleared to compete in the women’s figure skating competition at the Winter Olympics despite failing a pre-Games drug test, setting her up for an attempt at a second gold medal.
Whatever happens on the ice, Valieva will not get a medal ceremony moment in Beijing. Nor will any skater who finishes in the top three with her.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared Valieva to skate less than 12 hours after a hastily arranged hearing that lasted into early Monday morning. A panel of judges ruled that the 15-year-old Valieva, the favorite for the women’s individual gold, does not need to be provisionally suspended ahead of a full investigation.
The court gave her a favorable decision in part because she is a minor, known in Olympic jargon as a “protected person,” and is subject to different rules from an adult athlete.
“The panel considered that preventing the athlete to compete at the Olympic Games would cause her irreparable harm in the circumstances,” CAS Director General Matthieu Reeb said.
Now, Valieva and her fellow Russian skaters can aim for the first podium sweep of women’s figure skating in Olympic history. The event starts with the short program Tuesday and concludes Thursday with the free skate.
The International Olympic Committee said Monday afternoon that if Valieva finishes in the top three, there will be no medal ceremony during the Games. There will also be no ceremony for the team event won by Valieva and the Russian team a week ago.
“It would not be appropriate to hold the medal ceremony,” the IOC said.
Valieva landed the first quadruple jumps by a woman at the Olympics as the Russian team won gold in a dominant performance.
The decision not to award medals also affects Nathan Chen and the rest of the second-place American team, who will leave Beijing unsure if they won silver or gold. It would be Chen’s second gold of the Games. If Valieva and Russia are disqualified, Japan moves up to silver and Canada wins bronze.
“We are devastated that they will leave Beijing without their medals in hand, but we appreciate the intention of the IOC to ensure the right medals are awarded to the right individuals,” the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said in a statement.
The IOC decision also means the fourth-place finisher in the women’s event will have a good chance to move into the bronze position. This ruling only addresses whether Valieva can keep skating before her case is resolved. It doesn’t decide the fate of the one gold medal she has already won.
The Valieva case means Russian doping has been a major theme for a six straight Olympic Games. Reaction around the world ranged from support of the young skater to complaints that Russian doping had once again damaged a sporting event.
“This appears to be another chapter in the systematic and pervasive disregard for clean sport by Russia,” U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland said in a statement.
Hirshland said the USOPC was “disappointed by the message this decision sends” and suggested athletes were denied the confidence of knowing they competed on a level playing field.
On the NBC broadcast of the games, former Olympic figure skaters Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir condemned the decision.
“I strongly disagree with this decision,” Lipinski said. “Clean sport is the only thing that matters at an Olympic games.”
Weir went further with his comments, saying, “I condemn this decision with every ounce of my soul. If you won’t play fair, then you can’t play. This is a slap in the face to the Olympic Games, to our sport, and to every athlete that’s ever competed at the Olympics clean.”
Sha’Carri Richardson, the American sprinter who was not allowed to compete in the Summer Olympics last year in Tokyo after testing positive for marijuana, said race appears to be a factor in the decision.
“The only difference I see is I’m a Black young lady,” Richardson posted on Twitter Monday, adding, “Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mine?”