The British Olympic Association wants a harsher ban imposed on Russia if it can be proved that its sporting system deliberately doped the 15-year-old skater Kamila Valieva.
Speaking at the end of the Beijing Games, which ended with a gold medal at last for Britain in the women’s curling, the BOA chief executive, Andy Anson, described Valieva’s treatment as “horrific” and revealed it had lobbied the International Olympic Committee to investigate the skater’s entourage one or two days before the IOC decided to act.
Russia was officially banned from the Winter Olympics, although it was allowed to compete under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee. But Anson indicated that his organisation would back a stiffer punishment if a wider investigation proved Russia wrongdoing.
“The Valieva stuff is horrific,” Anson said. “I don’t think we can pretend that it’s anything other than that. The investigation into everyone around her needs to be thorough and go as deep as it possibly can because what happened there was just completely unacceptable.”
Valieva’s doping case dominated these Games after her positive test for the banned heart drug Trimetazidine was reported a day after she inspired the Russians to team skating gold. She was then allowed to continue competing by the court of arbitration for sport but, under the most severe pressure, she fell twice in the individual figure skating and finished fourth.
To make matters worse, Valieva was then scolded by her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, as she left the ice in tears – something the IOC president, Thomas Bach, condemned the next morning.
Anson said: “I have to say I’ve found the IOC very open. We’ve had discussions. We were pushing at the beginning that the entourage needed thoroughly investigating and a day or two that’s what came out. It sounded like they listened.”
When asked whether he supported a unilateral ban on Russia, Anson said: “The Sochi doping was clearly systematic and covered the whole team. That deserved to be punished.
“We were very frustrated by the Cas ruling that reduced the ban from four to two years. I still can’t understand the logic of reducing that. If the investigation into Valieva found that this was part of a sporting system that was doping this deliberately, of course we’d support a harsher ban.”
Anson said he was also open to a review of age limits in the wake of the Valieva case to protect vulnerable children. “This a global story and a pretty awful one,” he said. “The IOC and everyone involved has to act and push this thing as far as they can. It’s not easy. I was on the tennis tour when there was the match-fixing scandal in Poland, and we tried to get to the bottom of that in Russia and the policemen who were leading that decided they would not be around if they carried on that investigation. But we have to push it as far as we can and make sure we get to the bottom of it.”
Anson also admitted that, if Britain was going to call other countries out for doping, it also had to be tough on its own athletes who committed anti-doping rule violations.
“If we’re going to sit here and criticise the Russians for the Valieva case, we need to be as tough as [we] possibly can be when doping happens in the UK,” he said when asked about GB losing its Tokyo 4x100m relay silver medal after CJ Ujah was found to have banned drugs in his urine.
“If it was down to me personally, someone found guilty of a doping offence would never compete for Team GB again.
“I’m not sure legally I’d always win that battle but that’s how I feel about it. We want to send out the clearest possible message that it’s unacceptable.”
Anson also praised Team Eve Muirhead and Team Bruce Mouat, who won women’s curling gold and men’s curling silver, as Britain finished 19th in the Beijing medal table. “They have really kept us going and happy and positive. The gold medal is just the icing on the cake after a long, long time away from home and it’s been well deserved.”