It took Russian teenager Kamila Valieva less than 30 seconds to make history at the capital’s indoor stadium in Beijing last week when she became the first figure skater to successfully land quads at the Olympics.
Just 17 seconds later, she did it again. Lifting up and spinning, she made four more rotations in the air before landing on one foot and gracefully sweeping across the ice to the tune of Ravel’s Bolero.
The damned difficult jump is considered a kind of Holy Grail in the world of women’s figure skating, and Valieva’s impeccable performance not only sealed Russia’s victory in the prestigious team event, but also the 15-year-old elf’s status as a world sensation.
Nicknamed “Miss Perfection,” Valieva was virtually unknown outside the inner circle of her sport before making her senior debut four months ago. But since then, she has gained considerable notoriety—and quickly.
The Instagram account, where she occasionally recorded her workout routine and the daily routine of her Pomeranian pet Leva, now has over 545,000 followers.
“Today, Kamila Valieva occupies a very different place in Olympic history amid a growing debate about how natural this extraordinary talent is.”
Vogue Russia gave her a photo shoot. And last week’s gold medal performance was praised by everyone from Vladimir Putin (who lyrically praised her “skill, resilience and willpower”) to Alec Baldwin, who took to social media to thank “Kamila Valieva for her breathtaking gift.” beauty of the world.”
Having won every international competition she has ever competed in, TV pundits just a few days ago were praising her “ethereal” presence and calling her the greatest natural talent figure skating has ever seen.
However, sport can present funny surprises. Today, Kamila Valieva occupies a very different place in Olympic history, amid growing debate about how natural this outstanding talent is and what could have made her such a “perfect” athlete.
Things began to turn around within 24 hours of her national team winning the gold when it was announced that the awards ceremony was being postponed due to what was initially described as a “situation”. . . this requires legal advice.”
It soon became clear that the “situation” was in fact a doping scandal. Specifically, a urine sample Valieva gave authorities at the Russian Figure Skating Championships over Christmas tested positive for a drug called trimetazidine.
The drug, developed to combat angina attacks, helps maintain blood flow and relax blood vessels, supposedly helping a person breathe easier. It has been banned from sports because these qualities also promote endurance, allowing athletes to train longer.
In a discipline like figure skating, where mastering complex skills like those dazzling quadruple jumps requires strength and athleticism, which understandably makes it a performance-enhancing drug.
“Nicknamed ‘Miss Perfection’, Valieva was virtually unknown outside the inner circle of her sport before making her senior debut four months ago.”
All this should mean two things. First, the gold medal won by Valieva’s team last week should be annulled. And secondly, like all athletes who failed a doping test, she should have been immediately suspended from the competition with further consequences for the coaches who helped her.
In fact, such a series of events played out at the 2018 Winter Games when another Russian, bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva, who, ironically, was parading around Pyeongchang in a sweatshirt that read “I don’t dope,” was also tested. positive for trimetazidine.
Sergeeva was suspended for eight months as a result of the incident, and her fellow athletes are believed to have been prevented from waving the national flag or colors at the closing ceremony of the games.
However, that was then. And in these games, in the dystopian moral vacuum of communist China, different standards seem to apply. So tomorrow Kamila Valieva will again be allowed to enter the Olympic ice, in the short program of women’s single skating.
Of course, many expect her to win the competition, thereby not only slapping rival athletes who choose not to cheat, but also tarnishing what remains of the Olympic movement’s credibility after a decade in which it has repeatedly failed to curb the appalling excesses of the Russian doping program sponsored by the state.
Valieva learned today that she can continue to compete at the Winter Olympics in Beijing
This institutionalized corruption, which permeates almost every major sport in Putin’s country, has been an open secret since 2014, when the German broadcaster ARD released a documentary showing how high-ranking Russian officials, backed by the Kremlin, helped cover up the country’s athletes’ endemic drug use.
A 300-page report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) the following year revealed a “deeply ingrained culture of fraud” involving not only athletes and their coaches but also the institutions that run major Russian sports.
At the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, the report says Putin’s secret service agents even posed as laboratory engineers to cover up positive test results by providing fake urine and blood samples to doped Russians.
Then, as a sanction, it was announced that the country would be banned from participating in international competitions for four years. However, the punishment is largely symbolic: Russians are still allowed to compete at the Olympics under the banner of the “Russian Olympic Committee” (ROC), provided that they do not carry the Russian flag and the national anthem is not played at the award ceremonies. .
However, that this is nothing more than a farce was made abundantly clear at the opening ceremony in Beijing almost two weeks ago, when even these symbolic sanctions were blatantly violated, demonstrating Moscow’s total lack of remorse.
Not only was a skater named Olga Fatkulina honored to carry the flag – she was suspended for doping after the games in Sochi, but the ban was later lifted on appeal – each of the country’s 212 athletes also received a uniform that, in clear violation of the rules, was worn on the left sleeve is the color of the Russian flag.
Valieva trains at the Capital Indoor Stadium ahead of the figure skating competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Russia’s resistance to anti-doping enforcement efforts over the years has also been fueled by a series of widely criticized Court of Arbitration rulings.
The body, which, like FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), is based in Switzerland, was responsible for delivering the judgment that in December 2020 ruled to halve Russia’s international ban from four to two years.
The US Anti-Doping Agency called the decision “weak” and “diluted”. His UK equivalent said he was “disappointed” with the decision, saying it did not properly reflect “a state-sponsored plot to undermine the values of sport”.
It is curious that now it is the same Court of Arbitration for Sport that is responsible for the further participation of Kamila Valieva in these games. Kwango led a committee of three sitting in Beijing who opposed any attempt to kick her out in the early hours of the morning.
Valieva was initially suspended by the Russian anti-doping agency on February 8 when her positive test results came back.
However, the ban was lifted the next day. WADA, along with the IOC and the International Skating Union, then went to court to reinstate it.
But that request was denied, and the court cited “exceptional circumstances”, arguing that Valieva’s young age makes her a “protected person” who may not ultimately be barred from the sport once the normal regulatory process goes its way. successively.
At least one factor seems to be that the results of her urine test (collected on Christmas Day) were not returned until last week, almost two months later, apparently due to a Covid outbreak in a Swedish test facility. laboratory where he was sent.
It is not clear why regulators did not decide to send the sample to another institution ahead of the high-profile games. Another reason seems to be that Valieva is a child.
Apparently, Kamila Valieva will be on the ice tomorrow
However, while it is likely that any doping violation would have been orchestrated by adults on her coaching team, the move risks setting a precedent that would effectively legalize doping for all athletes under the age of 18, even if they compete in sports in which teenagers can reach the highest levels such as figure skating or gymnastics and women’s tennis.
Not surprisingly, the games turn into sarcasm and farce, which was last seen (at least in figure skating) in Salt Lake City in 2002, when Russia was accused of bribing French judges.
Apparently, Valieva will be on the ice tomorrow.
Aware of the escalating controversy, the IOC has already stated that if she wins, there will be no awards ceremony.
The organizers also stressed that she could be stripped of any prize at a later date once the full anti-doping process is completed. Meanwhile, Russia is doing what it does best: intimidating critics.
The British journalists who first broke the story of Valieva’s suspension via the Inside The Games website allege they received death threats warning them not to drink tea if it was poisoned.
Meanwhile, a Kremlin spokesman addressed the skater with a public appeal: “Raise your head, you are Russian, go proudly and beat everyone!”