Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva tests positive for banned heart medication: reports

Olympic favourite Kamila Valieva tested positive for a banned heart medication before her arrival at the Beijing Olympics, the Russian newspaper RBC reported, putting in jeopardy the team gold medal that she helped win earlier this week.

Canada could be in line to win bronze if ROC is disqualified

Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva was on the ice at the Beijing Olympics for training on Thursday following reports she tested positive for a banned substance. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

Olympic favourite Kamila Valieva tested positive for a banned heart medication before her arrival at the Beijing Olympics, the Russian newspaper RBC reported, putting in jeopardy the team gold medal that she helped win earlier this week.

USA Today also reported that a Russian athlete who is a minor has tested positive for a banned substance. At age 15, Valieva is the only member of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) skating team who is under 16.

Canada placed fourth and could be in line to win a bronze medal if ROC is disqualified.

Valieva showed up for her scheduled practice just after 11 a.m. on Thursday wearing a navy blue hoodie, black tights with shorts over them and her hair tied in a bun.

It's unclear if Russia is appealing or fighting the result. Her appearance at practice may imply that the federation isn't accepting any outcome that would eliminate her.

"She is not suspended," Russian figure skating federation spokeswoman Olga Ermolina said, with no further detail.

WATCH | Kamila Valieva practices after reports of positive test:

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Valieva ran through her program and skated with teammate Alexandra Trusova while getting pointers from coach Eteri Tutberidze at the practice rink. Valieva flashed a smile to one of her coaches near the end of the roughly 30-minute session, and none of the skaters took questions from reporters.

When Valieva left the press conference area, she gave a gesture with a fist in the air. It appeared she responded to something inaudible asked by a journalist speaking to her in Russian.

A positive test could also threaten Valieva's chance to win the individual competition that starts Tuesday. She is the heavy favourite.

The U.S. would take the gold medal in the team event if ROC is disqualified. The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee told USA Today it did not have any further details on the matter.

"But in situations like this, it's about more than gold. It's about the integrity of fair sport and accountability," a spokesperson for the organization said.

American skater Nathan Chen, who could be in line for another gold medal based on the outcome of this situation, weighed in after winning the individual title on Thursday.

"I think there's a lot of other factors that are being put in play," Chen said. "Whatever ends up being the case will be the case, but I'm still wrapped up in what I was able to do today. Looking forward to hearing what is ultimately decided."

The typically tight-lipped Russian team was even more guarded during the men's free skate, where Mark Kondratiuk simply said, "No comment," to a series of questions about the squad and whether he thought Valieva's case would be resolved. The 18-year-old Kondratiuk performed both men's programs during the team competition and stands to lose his gold medal in a disqualification scenario.

WATCH | Why Russian athletes are still allowed to compete at Olympics :

Russian doping scandal could impact Canada’s medal count

2 years ago
Duration 3:56
A doping infraction by a figure skater could cost the Russians a gold medal in the team event and potentially bump the Canadians up to a bronze. Medal favourite Kamila Valieva, 15, reportedly tested positive for a banned heart medication before her arrival at the Beijing Olympics.

The sample was reportedly obtained in December, when Valieva was still in Russia but did not come to light until after she had helped her team win the gold medal with dynamic performances in her short program and free skate.

The drug, Trimetazidine, is used to treat angina — a type of chest pain marked by reduced blood flow to the heart — and is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency as a stimulant.

The most famous case of Trimetazidine in sports doping involved Chinese star swimmer Sun Yang. The three-time Olympic champion served a three-month ban in 2014. Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva tested positive for Trimetazidine at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. She was disqualified from the two-woman bobsled event and served an eight-month ban.

It is unclear whether Valieva applied for a therapeutic use exemption or has a history of heart problems.

WATCH | Canada in line for medal if ROC is disqualified: 

IOC confirms 'legal consultations' have postponed Olympic figure skating team event

2 years ago
Duration 0:49
International Olympic Committee Director of Communications Mark Adams confirmed in a press briefing that a "situation arose...that requires legal consultation" with the International Skating Union, resulting in the postponement of the medal ceremony for the Olympic figure skating team event.

Russian athletes are in Beijing competing as the "Russian Olympic Committee", after the country was banned because of a massive state-sponsored doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee and Switzerland-based International Testing Agency, which oversees the Olympic drug testing program, have declined to comment on the case.

On Thursday, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said it would not be appropriate to talk of an ongoing legal case or "all sorts of speculation that I have also seen overnight."

The case is more complicated because minors have protection within the World Anti-Doping Code from being identified.

The uncertainty in Valieva's case contrasts with swift action taken by the ITA against an Iranian skier at the Beijing Games. Hossein Saveh Shemshaki gave a sample Monday that tested positive for an anabolic steroid and was provisionally suspended late Wednesday.

The International Skating Union can also take out athletes with interim bans if they test positive at its events, or in samples it gets before Jan. 27, when the ITA took over the Olympic anti-doping program. 

"Referring to the recent media reports, relating to the Figure Skating Team Event, the International Skating Union cannot disclose any information about any possible Anti-Doping rule violation," The ISU said in a released statement. "This is in line with the ISU Anti-Doping Rules and IOC Anti-Doping Rules for Beijing 2022. The ISU will therefore not make further comments at this time.

Appeal could further delay medal ceremony

If any athlete and team is disqualified or had results nullified, an appeal is likely, which could further delay the medals presentation. The Court of Arbitration for Sport has set up an office in Beijing to hear urgent cases.

Reporters asked the Kremlin about the potential doping issue late Wednesday amid speculation that the gold medals won by Valieva and five other Russian skaters that took part in the team competition could be at risk.

"Let's, for the sake of understanding, wait for some explanations either from our sports officials or from the IOC," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

While the Russian team dominated the competition, Valieva was the star. Along with winning the short program and free skate, she became the first woman to land a quadruple jump in Olympic competition.

WATCH | Madeline Schizas boosts Canada to 4th in team event:

Many of the skaters that took part in the team competition are due to leave Beijing shortly after competing Thursday's free skate. It's unclear if a medal ceremony will be held.

"Everyone is doing absolutely everything that the situation can be resolved as soon as possible," Adams said, though he cautioned "as you know, legal issues can sometimes drag on."

Traditional doping uncommon in sport

Traditional doping is uncommon in figure skating because additional muscle mass — weight — is generally a negative. But many skaters have been caught over the years trying to control their weight with diuretics, which are banned for their ability to mask steroid use, and other medications that could give them the slightest edge.

Russian skaters in particular have a history of positive results dating to 2000, when decorated pairs skater Elena Berezhnaya was stripped of a gold medal from the European championships for testing positive for pseudoephedrine.

Three years ago, pairs skater Alexandra Koshevaya was given a two-year ban after testing positive for torasemide, which she claimed to have used for a foot injury. Later that year, ice dancer Anastasia Shakun was given a one-year suspension for taking furosemide after she claimed a pharmacy suggested it for swelling in her eye.

In July 2020, Maria Sotskova was dealt a 10-year ban just months after announcing her retirement for allegedly forging a medical certificate to explain a doping violation. Sotskova finished eighth at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang.

With files from Reuters

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