The brilliant 16-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, whose positive doping test dominated headlines at the 2022 Winter Olympics, has been cleared of any wrongdoing by a Russian Anti-Doping Agency tribunal.
That is unlikely to be the end of the matter, however, with the World Anti-Doping Agency expressing its “concern” at the decision – before hinting that it could challenge the ruling at the court of arbitration for sport (Cas).
Valieva’s positive test for the banned heart drug Trimetazidine was reported a day after she inspired the Russians to team skating gold in Beijing last February. She was then allowed to continue competing by Cas but, under the most severe pressure, she fell twice in the individual figure skating and finished fourth.
After an 11-month delay a Rusada tribunal has now ruled that while Valieva did commit an anti-doping rule violation, she bore “no fault or negligence” for it. As such, the tribunal imposed no sanction except for the disqualification of her results on the date of her failed test at the Russian championships on 25 December 2021.
The news was revealed by the World Anti-Doping Agency, who had wanted Valieva to be given a four-year ban. “Based on the elements of the case with which Wada is already familiar, the agency is concerned by the finding of “no fault or negligence” and will not hesitate to exercise its right of appeal to the court of arbitration for sport, as appropriate,” it said.
Wada added that the ruling had been made public only after it had gone to Cas in November to protest at what it called an “unacceptable delay by Rusada in rendering a decision in this matter”.
Valieva’s story was undoubtedly the biggest of the Games. On 25 December 2021 she had taken a drugs test at the Russian figure skating championships. Yet it was only on 8 February, a day after she inspired her country to gold in the team skating, that she learned she had tested positive.
The delay had been caused by a Covid outbreak among workers at a doping laboratory in Sweden. But when the news was announced it led to a media storm which dominated the Winter Olympics.
Meanwhile the head of the US Anti-Doping Agency, Travis Tygart, has urged Wada and the International Skating Union to appeal against Rusada’s decision, “for the sake of the credibility of the anti-doping system and the rights of all athletes”.
“The world can’t possibly accept this self-serving decision by Rusada, which in the recent past has been a key instrument of Russia’s state sponsored doping fraud and is non-compliant,” he told the Guardian. “Justice demands a full, fair, public hearing outside of Russia.”