A court is holding an urgent hearing to decide if a 15-year-old Russian figure skater accused of doping has the right to compete next week at the Beijing Olympic Games. Doping is the illegal use of drugs to improve athletic performance.
The International Olympic Committee confirmed on Friday that Kamila Valieva failed a drug test she took six weeks ago. The test results came back earlier this week from a Swedish laboratory.
Russia’s anti-doping agency RUSADA temporarily banned Valieva from competition on Tuesday. After an appeal, the agency ended the ban Wednesday.
Both the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Testing Agency said Friday they would fight RUSADA’s decision to permit Valieva to compete. The women’s individual competition opens in Beijing Tuesday.
Valieva is a strong favorite to win the gold medal in the individual event. She already competed in Beijing in the team figure skating event and helped the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) take first place. She made history during the event by being the first woman to land a quadruple jump on Olympic ice. That means she jumps and turns four circles in the air before landing.
Figure skating experts consider Valieva one of the most talented skaters ever. The young skater has broken world record marks all season long.
The ROC said it will fight to keep the gold medal it won in the team event with Valieva’s help. It also said that a drug test Valieva took while at the Olympics came back clean. All medalists get tested at the Olympics.
Russian athletes have a long history of doping. Russia was banned from Olympic competition because of past drug violations. Russian athletes are taking part in these Olympics under the name Russian Olympic Committee.
The International Testing Agency (ITA) said Valieva tested positive for a banned heart medication called Trimetazidine, or TMZ. The test was administered on December 25 and sent to a laboratory in Sweden. The ITA said the results became available on Tuesday. A day earlier, Valieva had helped the ROC win the team event.
The medal ceremony for the event was postponed. It is not known whether the ROC team will be awarded the gold medal. The United States placed second to the ROC in the team event, followed by Japan.
Valieva is one of the youngest Olympians ever to fail a drug test. Under World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules, she is considered a “protected person” because she is under the age of 16. That means her identity should be protected. Russian media this week were among the first to report on Valieva’s failed drug test.
Many fans and other skaters expressed anger and shock at how the young skater came to have a banned drug in her system. They placed blame on Valieva’s trainers, doctors and Russian sports officials rather than on Valieva herself.
German skater and Olympian Katarina Witt said the “responsible adults” involved should be banned from the sport forever. "What they knowingly did to her, if true… makes my athlete's heart cry...," Witt added.
Valieva has continued to practice in Beijing in preparation for competition. She was seen going through her program on Thursday and Friday with her coaches as well as the other female skaters representing the ROC.
The Russian government has expressed strong support for Valieva. A spokesman for President Vladimir Putin told reporters Friday, “We call on everyone to support her. And we say to Kamila: ’Kamila, do not hide your face, you are a Russian woman, walk proudly everywhere and most of all, compete and win against everyone.”
I’m Ashley Thompson.
The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson and Jill Robbins adapted it for VOA Learning English with additional materials from Reuters news agency.
Words in This Story
athletic - adj. of or relating to sports, games, or exercises
talented - adj. having a special ability to do something well
practice - v. to do something again and again in order to become better at it
proudly - adv. very happy and pleased because of something you have done, something you own, someone you know or are related to, etc. : feeling pride