Kamila Valieva: IOC refuses to confirm if teen skater is at centre of doping controversy

  • Reports named Valieva, 15, as skater fighting pre-Games positive
  • Figure skating team medal ceremony was delayed on Tuesday

The International Olympic Committee has refused to comment on whether the athlete at the centre of a doping controversy at Beijing 2022 is the 15-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, despite the teenager being named in multiple reports around the world.

Multiple sources have told the Guardian that Valieva, who captured the world’s attention when she became the first female skater to perform a quad at the Olympics, may be the athlete who tested positive for trimetazidine, a metabolic agent that helps prevent angina attacks. There has been no official confirmation that Valieva is the subject of the positive test and alongside the IOC, the Russian Olympic Committee and the International Skating Union are also refusing to confirm or deny if it was her.

Sources have suggested the test happened several weeks ago, raising questions about why it emerged only after the Russians won their figure skating team gold medal on Monday.

The Guardian understands that Valieva’s case is being heard at an emergency hearing at the court of arbitration for sport in Beijing. If the speculation is correct, and it is Valieva who tested positive, then the Russian Olympic Committee will lose their team gold and she will not be able to compete at the individual event next week.

Valieva continued to train in Beijing on Thursday, but did not talk to the world’s media. However her training partner, Anastasia Gubanova, a Russian-born skater who represents Georgia, told reporters: “It would be very unfortunate for her if something bad happens because of this.”

A Russian skating official refused to comment when asked by the Guardian about Valieva’s case. The three Russian skaters in the men’s figure skating final also took a similar approach.

However, the prominent journalist Vasily Konov, the deputy general producer at Russian sports channel Match-TV, did appear to link Valieva to the reports, saying, without citing sources, that the sample in question had been taken two months ago.

“The drug trimetazidine does not help an athlete in any way. At all. It was found in one single sample in December. A minuscule amount. Nothing in her samples before or since,” he wrote on social media. “There is no doping in the conventional sense. No! This cardiac drug has no impact on ... performance. Now leave Kamila in peace.”

Trimetazidine, or TMZ, works by increasing blood flow to the heart and limiting rapid swings in blood pressure. It has been on Wada’s list of prohibited substances since 2014.

“It is not a drug that you would take accidentally, not something you would ordinarily be prescribed, and not something that you would expect a 15-year-old to be prescribed,” said the former Wada director general, David Howman.

Under Wada’s code, the body is not required to name athletes under the age of 18 who commit doping violations.

The medal ceremony for the figure skating team event was due to be held on Tuesday evening local time but was delayed with the IOC saying it was due to “legal consultation”.

When repeatedly asked about the reports naming Valieva on Thursday, the International Olympic Committee spokesperson Mark Adams said it would be wrong to comment on an ongoing case.

“I’m not going to comment on all sorts of speculation that I have also seen,” he said at the IOC’s daily press conference in Beijing. “We had a situation arise on Wednesday at short notice that has legal implications. I’m not going to comment on a legal case because it wouldn’t be appropriate.”

However the chair of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee board of directors has warned the IOC that the future of the Games depends on them upholding the integrity of sport.

“Clearly what’s on my mind today is it is so important to the athletes of the world that the values of this movement be upheld, and one of the most important values is integrity of sport,” said Susanne Lyons.

Lyons said World Anti-Doping Agency rules must not only be observed, “but that when something does go wrong that the sanctions are even-handed across the world – that they are all treated fairly.

“The whole credibility of the Olympic movement and the Paralympic movement stands teetering on the edge of us saying that we really believe and live the values that we say we stand for,” she added.

The United States finished in silver medal position behind the Russian Olympic Committee team in Monday’s team final with Japan taking bronze and Canada in fourth.

Trimetazidine, also known as TMZ, is a drug used to treat the heart condition angina where blood flow to the heart is restricted. It has been considered a banned substance by the World Anti-Doping Association since 2014. 

TMZ is listed as a "metabolic modulator," a type of drug that enhances the efficient use of oxygen. Meldonium, for which the tennis player Maria Sharapova tested positive in 2018 is another example of the same type of drug.

Trimetazidine makes your heart better at pumping blood around your body, delivering more oxygen to the body's muscles.

Meanwhile a statement from the International Skating Union said it could not disclose any information about any possible anti-doping rule violation involving a skater. “This is in line with the ISU Anti-Doping Rules and IOC Anti-Doping Rules for Beijing 2022,” it added.

Russia was banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang after an investigation ruled there had been state-sponsored doping on a huge scale when it hosted the 2014 Games in Sochi. However it was allowed by the IOC to send a 168-strong team under the name Olympic Athletes from Russia.

In December 2019 Russia got in further trouble when the fact they had deliberately manipulated thousands of doping records at a Moscow laboratory was confirmed. As a result it has to compete at these Games as the Russian Olympic Committee.


Sean Ingle in Beijing

The GuardianTramp

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