Kamila Valieva during the figure skating competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics on Friday. Reuters
The 15-year-old played a starring role in helping the Russians win the figure skating team gold on Monday.
The next day, the result of a test she took during the Russian championships on December 25 was communicated to Valieva — six weeks after she gave the sample.
On Friday, soon after she was seen practising ahead of next week's Olympics singles event, the International Testing Agency (ITA) publicly confirmed that her sample contained traces of the banned substance trimetazidine.
Trimetazidine is a metabolic agent used to treat angina and vertigo, but it is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) because it can increase blood flow efficiency and help endurance.
The ITA, which carries out drug testing at the Olympics, said the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) had suspended Valieva when it received the result but she successfully overturned the decision, enabling her to continue at the Beijing Games. Now the International Olympic Committee, as well the International Skating Union (ISU) and WADA say they will appeal against the decision to lift her suspension.
"The IOC will exercise its right to appeal," the ITA said. The Court of Arbitration for Sport will hear the case and will make a decision before Feb.15, when the Olympic singles event starts, the ITA said.
It is just the latest doping scandal surrounding Russian athletes in recent years at Olympic Games. Russian competitors are taking part in Beijing as the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) after the nation was banned because of a massive state-sponsored doping scheme at its home 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Valieva's test was sent to a WADA-accredited laboratory in Stockholm, Sweden and questions will be asked as to why it took so long for it to be processed.
RUSADA said it had been informed that a sharp rise of Covid-19 infections at the start of the year was to blame for the delay.
"According to the data sent by the laboratory to RUSADA, the reason for the delays in the analysis and reporting by the laboratory was another wave of COVID-19," the Russian agency said in a statement. RUSADA also said it had launched an investigation into the teenage skater's entourage.
The head of the Russian Olympic Committee, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, meanwhile questioned the timing of Valieva's positive test.
"The timings of sample processing raise serious questions," Pozdnyakov told the RIA Novosti news agency, suggesting the result had been deliberately released to coincide with the Olympics. "It seems like someone held the sample until the end of the team skating tournament," he added.
ROC said Valieva had the right to compete in Beijing and that her team gold medal should stand. It said it wanted to "draw attention to the fact" that a test Valieva took during the Olympics "gave a negative result."
Valieva is one of the favourites to win the individual event next week. She became the first woman in history to produce a quadruple jump at an Olympics to help Russia win the team event.
She won the European championship singles title in Estonia in January as Russia swept the gold medals.
The confirmation that Valieva failed a doping test explains why the medals ceremony for the figure skating team event has not taken place.
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