Teenage Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva will vie for gold in one of the Olympics’ most high profile events Tuesday, after being cleared to compete amid a doping controversy that’s cast a shadow over Russia’s involvement in the Games.
Fifteen-year-old Valieva has been at the center of rapidly unfolding scandal following revelations she tested positive for a banned substance in December — a finding that only came to light days into the Beijing Olympics and after the star skater helped the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) win gold in the figure skating team event. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled Monday that Valieva could compete in the short program of the women’s single skating competition, an event that she’s a favorite to win.
The athlete — whose presence on ice has been described as “ethereal” by fans of the sport — plans to skate to the music “In Memoriam” by Kirill Richter and attempt a triple axel as well as a triple flip in her program. But Valieva will take the ice amid a growing backlash against the ruling and Russia’s long record of doping violations, which resulted in its athletes competing as neutrals under the ROC banner. On Monday, CAS upheld a decision by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s (RUSADA) agency to lift a provisional suspension against Valieva on February 9 that it had imposed against the skater just one day earlier.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Skating Union (ISU) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had appealed RUSADA’s decision after the December test results became known. CAS said in a statement it had decided Valieva should be allowed to compete due to “exceptional circumstances,” including specific provisions linked to her status as a “protected person” — because she is a minor — under the World Anti-Doping Code.