Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi has added her voice to the chorus of criticism surrounding the current doping scandal plaguing the Winter Olympics in China.
Yamaguchi, who won the ladies’ figure skating competition at the 1992 games in Albertville, said the entire affair involving Russian skater Kamila Valieva is shocking as well as disappointing.
“I think frustration and anger, first of all, because there’s a lot of details and a lot of things going on with the case and still ongoing,” she told NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday. “But I think also sadness, sadness that figure skating’s in this position, that this happened to a 15-year-old, that there’s a cloud over an entire Olympics now, not just figure skating.”
Valieva has become the focus of attention due to the revelation of a positive test for a banned drug in December, and this week being allowed to continue competing at the Olympics in Beijing.
Yamaguchi suggested the argument that Valieva is a minor – and therefore should not be held responsible for drugs she has been given by her trainers – is a distraction to the facts and to the experiences of generations of young skaters.
“You do know, as an athlete,” she explained. “You are given a list, at least in the U.S. Olympic and U.S. Figure Skating, of banned substances, products to avoid. I went to the World Junior Championships at 14, 15, 16 and experienced doping there, so you’re certainly aware of it.
“You are also relying on the team around you to help you navigate all of that, especially at that young age, but you do know what is right and what is wrong, what are banned substances and obviously what fair play is.”
The 50-year-old Yamaguchi remains involved in figure skating, and makes herself available to Team USA athletes for advice ahead of competitions. She is among a slew of current and former figure skaters around the world who worry the Valieva case is damaging not only the reputation of the Olympics, but also the integrity of sport.
“You want to see that even playing field for everyone out there and right now it’s not,” she said.