WADA blames Russian officials for Valieva test result delay
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has claimed Russian officials did not indicate that a test sample from figure skater Kamila Valieva was a ‘priority’, causing a contentious delay which has been at the center of the teenager’s doping case in Beijing.
A Court of Arbitration for Sport panel (CAS) ruled on Monday that Valieva is free to compete at the Beijing Games after rejecting requests for a suspension to be imposed because of a positive doping test dating from December.
In announcing its decision, CAS cited Valieva’s status as a ‘protected person’ under the WADA Code because of her age.
It also noted that Valieva’s positive test result was only reported last week – after she had already helped the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) to gold in the figure skating team event in Beijing.
Along with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Skating Union (ISU), WADA had sought to reimpose a suspension on Valieva which had been lifted by Russian anti-doping officials upon appeal from the skater.
Responding to its legal defeat on Monday, WADA acknowledged the CAS ruling but took issue with aspects of the case.
“While WADA has not received the reasoned award, it appears that the CAS panel decided not to apply the terms of the Code, which does not allow for specific exceptions to be made in relation to mandatory provisional suspensions for ‘protected persons’, including minors,” read a statement on the WADA website.
“Concerning the analysis of the athlete’s sample, WADA always expects Anti-Doping Organizations to liaise with the laboratories in order to ensure they expedite the analysis of samples so that the results are received prior to athletes traveling to or competing in a major event, such as the Olympic or Paralympic Games and, where applicable, conduct results management of the cases related to such athletes,” it added.
“According to information received by WADA, the sample in this case was not flagged by RUSADA as being a priority sample when it was received by the anti-doping laboratory in Stockholm, Sweden. This meant the laboratory did not know to fast-track the analysis of this sample.”
That assertion appears to contrast with comments last week from the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), which said it had been told that the delay with Valieva’s sample at the WADA-accredited Stockholm facility was caused by Covid-related issues.
The sample was dated December 25 – when Valieva was on her way to winning the Russian national championships – but the positive result was only reported on February 8.
In its statement on Monday, WADA added it was continuing its investigations into Valieva’s entourage as part of the case – a step which RUSADA has also initiated.
Valieva tested positive for the banned heart medicine trimetazidine, although Russian Olympic officials have stressed that she repeatedly returned negative results in tests before and after the sample was taken.
The case will continue to be investigated, while CAS also stressed it had not ruled on the status of the ROC’s gold medal in the team event in Beijing, meaning Valieva and her Russian teammates could yet stand to be stripped of the award.
Valieva had starred as the ROC team finished ahead of the USA and Japan on the podium, with Canada in fourth, although the official medal ceremony has been postponed indefinitely.
Following a week fraught with intense pressure and speculation, Valieva is at least now free to line up in the women’s individual event in Beijing, which begins with the short program on Tuesday before the free skate routine two days later.