'Serious questions': Bombshell detail in Winter Olympics drug scandal

Kamila Valieva, pictured here during a training session at Capital Indoor Stadium at the Winter Olympics.
Kamila Valieva of ROC is seen during a training session at Capital Indoor Stadium at the Winter Olympics. (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)

The head of the Russian Olympic Committee has raised 'serious questions' about the timing of the release of Kamila Valieva's positive drug result after the 15-year-old was caught in an ugly scandal at the Beijing Olympics.

Valieva's right to compete in Beijing is set to be decided at an urgent hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Both the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Testing Agency - on behalf of the IOC - said on Friday that they would fight the decision by Russia's anti-doping agency to allow the 15-year-old to skate.

The Russian agency provisionally banned Valieva on Tuesday because she failed a doping test in December, but after an appeal the ban was lifted on Wednesday.

Valieve landed the first quad jump by a woman at an Olympics as the ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) won the team event, but the Russians are now in a fight to keep the gold medal.

The ITA confirmed reports that Valieva tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine at the Russian national championships in St Petersburg six weeks ago.

However the positive test was only flagged by a laboratory in Sweden on Tuesday - the day after Valieva helped the Russians win the team event and just hours before the medal ceremony, which was then postponed.

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, has now 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."

Kamila Valieva, pictured here in action during the free skating team event at the Winter Olympics.
Kamila Valieva in action during the free skating team event at the Winter Olympics. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

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".

United States Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart also questioned how it had taken nearly six weeks for Valieva's positive sample to come to light.

"The failure to report a test taken in December until after the team event in the Games is a catastrophic failure of the system to protect the public, the integrity of the Games and clean athletes who had to compete," Tygart told AFP.

"It shouldn't have happened."

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said in Beijing: "It's very important for everyone involved, not least the 15-year-old athlete that is concerned, that we have due process, that it's seen to be done properly and that people can have confidence in the decisions that are taken.

"We are working as fast as we can under the circumstances to get that. Such cases are not helpful to the Games."

Kamila Valieva fighting to compete at Winter Olympics

Valieva is one of the favourites to win the individual event next week.

She was hit with an immediate interim ban from the Beijing Olympics by RUSADA, which oversaw testing at the national championships.

On Wednesday, a RUSADA disciplinary panel upheld her appeal and overturned the skater's interim ban.

As a 15-year-old, Valieva has protections in the World Anti-Doping Code. Under the guidelines, she could ultimately receive just a simple reprimand.

When a minor is implicated in doping rules violations, the rules say her entourage such as coaches and team doctors, must be investigated too.

That isn't typically the case for athletes over the age of 18.

Valieva will likely be stripped of her Russian national title from December but the Russian Olympic Committee said it would defend Valieva and fight to keep her team event gold.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was vocal in calling for support for Valieva.

"We're waiting for the proceedings to end. And infinitely, absolutely infinitely, and completely and in any case we are supporting our Kamila Valieva," he told reporters on Friday.

"And 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."

with agencies

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