Commentators caught in telling act amid Winter Olympics drug scandal

Tara Lapinski and Kamila Valieva, pictured here at the Winter Olympics.
Tara Lapinski's commentary of Kamila Valieva's routine at the Winter Olympics was telling. Image: Getty

NBC commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir are the talk of the Winter Olympics after their largely non-existent commentary of Kamila Valieva's routine in the figure skating short program.

Valieva is at the centre of major scandal in Beijing after the Court of Arbitration for Sport allowed the 15-year-old to keep competing despite failing a doping test.

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The Russian star tested positive at her national championships on December 25, but the result was not revealed until February 8 after she had already competed at the Beijing Games and helped ROC win gold in the team event.

Valieva was initially suspended, however the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled she should be allowed to compete while anti-doping officials conduct a full investigation, in part because she is a minor and is subject to different rules from an adult athlete.

That decision has gone down like a lead balloon in the figure skating world, and Lipinski and Weir expressed their displeasure during their commentary of her routine on Tuesday for NBC.

The retired American Olympians were largely silent during the routine, with Weir only speaking once it was complete.

"All I can feel like I can say is that was the short program of Kamila Valieva at the Olympics," Weir said.

Lipinski was more direct, saying: “She had a positive test. We should not have seen this skate."

The commentators each noted one difficult jumping pass, but gave no emotion to it and did not give any further critiques.

Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski, pictured here in commentary for NBC at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski in commentary for NBC at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Valieva then stumbled on her triple axel attempt, an uncharacteristic mistake that would usually prompt a gasp and further video review on air. Instead there was silence.

"I don't know how many times over the past year that I've said she is the best figure skater I've ever seen," Lipinski said.

"And just saying that now not only makes me confused, it makes me angry ... and disoriented by everything I thought that I knew.

“It makes you question everything. These skaters give up their lives for this moment, to get to this place. Why?”

Kamila Valieva, pictured here performing in the figure skating short program at the Winter Olympics.
Kamila Valieva performs during the figure skating short program at the Winter Olympics. (Photo by Nikolay Muratkin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Viewers praise commentators for Valieva critique

Weir apologised to viewers that the scandal was "overshadowing your Olympics."

Lipinski said she believes it will "leave a permanent scar on our sport."

Viewers were quick to applaud Weir and Lipinski for taking a stand.

Valieva ended up earning 82.16 points, more than eight off her own world record but more than enough to top the field.

The free skate will decide the medals on Thursday night, however there will be no medal ceremony if Valieva finishes in the top three.

The International Olympic Committee, concerned that she could still be banned after a full doping case, said it would instead "organise dignified medal ceremonies" in the future.

with agencies

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