Don’t blame Cas for Valieva’s situation – blame those who let her down | Winter Olympics Beijing 2022

JThe decision to allow Russian prodigy Kamila Valieva to compete in the women’s figure skating competition less than two months after she tested positive for a banned heart medication has cast a shadow over the glamorous Winter Olympics event which will persist for years to come, further tarnishing the reputation of the already controversial Beijing Games.

Armed with a quiver of point-gobbling quadruple jumps, 15-year-old Valieva set the world record for combined total score on her first outing as a senior in October and only got better at from there, skating with deeper maturity and sophistication. every competition until the team event last week in Beijing, where she became the first woman to land a four-revolution jump on Olympic ice. But her entire sensational debut campaign was thrown into question on Friday after it was revealed she had tested positive for a banned substance known to boost stamina and stamina.

Monday’s ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, allowing Valieva to compete while appealing the positive result, represents a parody of the Olympic movement. The likelihood of Valieva going home with not one but two gold medals despite testing positive for an illegal substance is a devastating optical blow to a sport that has practically only just emerged from the judging scandal at the Olympics. of 2002 which left its integrity in tatters.

At times like these – and Monday will surely go down as one of the darkest days in figure skating – the instinct to blame kicks in. But the widespread anger at Cas’s decision is misguided. The three-judge panel was not tasked with considering whether or not Valieva doped, but rather the procedural question of whether the Russian teenager should be suspended until it is determined whether she did it.

The ensuing search for guilt in the coming months as well as the investigation into the merits of the case – which could yet end with Valieva stripped of her medals – will extend to those around the skater and if someone within it encouraged the use of a forbidden. substance.

At the top of the list is Eteri Tutberidze, the enigmatic and polarizing coach whose methods have forged skaters who have dominated the international scene for eight years while drawing criticism for their short injury-prone careers. On Saturday, she admitted the situation was “very controversial and difficult”, but added: “I want to say that I am absolutely sure that Kamila is innocent and clean.”

Another is Filipp Shvetsky, the rinkside doctor for Valieva’s senior international debut in October, who was reportedly banned from working with the Russian rowing team following a doping investigation in 2007. Shvetsky claims he was made a scapegoat. Other members of his coaching staff on the pitch in Beijing are Sergei Dudakov and Daniil Gleikhengauz, both from Moscow’s Sambo-70 club where Tutberidze is the head coach. None of Valieva’s support staff have been formally charged with wrongdoing.

Team doctor Filipp Shvetsky talks to Kamila Valieva during a training session in Beijing. Photograph: Valery Sharifulin/TASS

The maelstrom has already sparked backlash in Russia, where the hashtag #позорТутберидзе, or #shameonTutberidze was trending on Twitter as news of Valieva’s positive drug test spread on Friday. Since Valieva, who has seemed helpless during training sessions in the days following the news, was seized upon as a reminder of how vulnerable young athletes remain.

Adam Ripon – 2018 Olympic bronze medalist and coach of USA skater Mariah Bell – who will face Valieva this week – said: “The adults around her have completely let her down. They put her in this horrible situation and should be punished.

When it comes to the blemish on the women’s competition, which begins Tuesday with the short program and ends with Thursday’s free skate, the blame lies with the collective failure of the alphabet soup of orbit organizations. Olympic – nothing more than the International Olympic Committee. — to keep track of Russia’s serial misdeeds over the years. What passed for discipline clearly failed to create an adequate deterrent for the glory of the gold rather than the welfare of the athletes.

When a judging scandal rocked the pairs figure skating competition at the 2002 Olympics, ultimately leading to a complete overhaul of the judging system, the Russian team that benefited received doubles gold medals instead. only to be downgraded to silver and no thorough investigation was ever carried out. The years-long doping scheme that included the sabotage of drug testing at the 2014 Sochi Olympics was answered with the banning of the Russian flag rather than the state behind it, with more than 300 Russian athletes invited to participate in the Pyeongchang 2018 Games under the designation of the Russian Olympic Committee.

Now a young athlete is cleared to compete after testing positive for a banned substance, offering another victory for Russia’s state-sponsored anti-doping system if Valieva’s positive test is confirmed.

The obvious way forward is to raise the minimum age, which seems like a given if bad actors are found to have been able to exploit the idea of ​​a “protected person” as a loophole to get around the rules. But that won’t save this year’s competition, the one time every four years the general public leans forward and pays attention.

The IOC responded with surprising force on Monday evening, saying there would be no medal ceremony for last week’s team competition and no medal ceremony for the women’s event this week. if Valieva finishes on the podium, stating that it would not be appropriate to include an athlete with a positive A sample but whose anti-doping rule violation has not been established. He also asked the ISU to allow the 25th-place finisher in the short program on Tuesday, who otherwise would have missed the cut, to participate in the free skate on Thursday.

Yet it all seems too little too late. After years of acquiescence and appeasement, the hens have come home to roost under the brightest lights. And clean sport once again holds the bag.

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