The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that teenage Russian ice skater Kamila Valieva would be allowed to compete despite a looming doping scandal.
They did so in the interests of avoiding 'irreparable harm' to the 15-year-old's health and career - but the damage may have already been done after Russia's team of teenage ice skating phenoms left the rink in varying states of distress.
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Valieva, already under immense worldwide scrutiny arguably through no fault of her own, was berated by Russian coach Eteri Tutberidze after she fell twice and wound up placing fourth.
Tutberidze, who is set to come under investigation over the positive drug test Valieva returned on December 25, was caught on camera angrily confronting the clearly devastated 15-year-old.
“Why did you let it go? Why did you stop fighting?” she was overheard saying, comments that have since sparked widespread outrage.
The devastation wasn't limited to just Valieva.
Despite winning gold and silver for ROC respectively, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova were clearly affected by the chaos engulfing Russia's ice-skating team.
Shcherbakova said she felt 'emptiness inside' after winning gold and said he felt sorry for Valieva.
Even after winning gold at the age of just 17, Shcherbakova faced questions about a potential retirement from the sport, having just described the feeling of winning as 'unreal'.
Eteri Tutberidze should be banned from figure skating or really any other sport for life.
— Jashvina Shah (@icehockeystick) February 17, 2022
All three of these girls are nothing less than victims in a sport that rewards only the “chosen ones” who are in Eteri Tutberidze’s good graces, and aren’t completely broken in body yet. They are victims of a coach who created not a system, but a well oiled machine always working
— Joanne O’ Riordan (@JoanneOR_Ox) February 17, 2022
'Why did you let it go?'
Coach Eteri Tutberidze, dubbed the "Snow Queen", was the first person to greet the visibly upset Valieva as she came off the ice.
"Why did you let it go? Why did you let it go? Tell me," Tutberidze can be heard demanding https://t.co/mij13jH3LR pic.twitter.com/WscISFwbOw
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) February 18, 2022
“I still don’t comprehend what has happened. On the one hand I feel happy, on the other I feel this emptiness inside," she said.
“I have the desire to skate, and I can’t even imagine being without figure skating."
Silver medallist Trusov was also left devastated, pledging to never skate again after the calamitous Games in Beijing.
“I hate this sport,” she shouted on the sidelines after her routine fell short of her teammate's.
“I won't go onto the ice again.”
Russian ice skating team devastated by controversy, despite medal wins
A distraught Trusova clearly thought she had been robbed of gold and let her emotions pour out in a stunning outburst after the final points were announced.
“Everyone has a gold medal, everyone, but not me,” Trusova said, according to Reuters.
“I hate skating. I hate it. I hate this sport. I will never skate again. Never. It’s impossible. That’s not how it should be.”
Valieva had been in pole position after topping the short program, and had been expected to add the singles title to the team crown she led Russia to before the doping controversy erupted.
The International Olympic Committee had said that for the first time in Olympic history, no medals would be awarded if Valieva finished in the top three because she could yet be punished for taking a banned substance.
NBC commentators Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski, who had been vocal about the disdain that Valieva was allowed to keep skating, were brutal in their reactions to her fall.
“Thank God!" Lipinski exclaimed. “Thank goodness for all the other medallists to have that moment.”
Weir added: “And to have done it cleanly.”
In the end that was not a factor as Valieva, dressed in black and red, fell several times in her routine.
The distraught teenager had her head in her hands at the end and then broke down as she waited to hear her score.
CAS ruled during the Games that Valieva could continue to skate in the Olympics, but it did not absolve her of doping and the investigation looks set to rumble on well after the action ends in Beijing.
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