Valieva coach created ‘chilling’ atmosphere, claims Olympic boss
Kamila Valieva faced a “chilling” atmosphere from coach Eteri Tutberidze after the teenager suffered bitter disappointment at the Beijing Games, according to International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach.
Gold medal favorite Valieva, 15, endured a torrid performance in her free skate routine on Thursday, falling several times before leaving the ice in tears as she finished down in fourth.
The gold medal was won by Russia’s Anna Shcherbakova while countrywoman Alexandra Trusova earned silver.
After her performance, Valieva was heard being asked by her coach Tutberidze why she had seemingly stopped trying after falling on one element of her routine.
Tutberidze later tried to console Valieva along with fellow coach Daniil Gleikhengauz as they awaited the scores.
Speaking to the media on Friday, IOC boss Bach claimed he had been “disturbed” by the scenes.
“When I afterwards saw how she was received by her closest entourage with what appeared to be a tremendous coldness, it was chilling to see this,” Bach said.
“Rather than giving her comfort, rather than to try to help her. You could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance. If you were interpreting the body language, it got even worse. This was even dismissive gestures. Can you really be so cold to your athletes?”
Renowned coach Tutberidze trained all three Russian stars in the women’s competition in Beijing. The trio have been dubbed ‘The Quad Squad’ for their ability to land quadruple jumps.
Bach noted the angry reaction by Trusova to her silver medal, after the 17-year-old was heard remonstrating and seemingly threatening to end her career.
“When I saw and read how then Alexandra Trusova was being treated, when I read about her comments, I’m afraid that this impression I had last night was not the wrong one,” Bach said.
“All of this does not give me much confidence in this closest entourage of Kamila. Neither with regard to what happened in the past, nor as far as it concerns the future, how to deal (with) and treat a minor athlete at the age of 15, under such an obvious mental stress.
“I can only wish she has the support of her family and her friends, and the people who help her over this difficult situation.”
The immense pressure on Valieva took its toll after a week-long ordeal following the news that she had tested positive for banned heart medicine trimetazidine in a sample collected in December.
The result was only reported after Valieva had already competed in the team event in Beijing, winning gold with the ROC.
The medal ceremony for that event has been delayed indefinitely as the investigation into Valieva’s case continues, but she was cleared to compete in the individual event in Beijing by a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) panel.
The IOC had been among those seeking to suspend Valieva over the case, and the organization has been criticized for its treatment of the Russian, alongside the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Skating Union (ISU).
Questions have been raised as to why the test result took so long to be reported, coming six weeks after it was collected at the Russian national championships and sent to a WADA-accredited laboratory in Sweden.
Russian Olympic officials have noted that Valieva repeatedly returned negative tests before and after the positive sample, including while at the Beijing Games.
Valieva’s team have suggested that trimetazidine may have entered her system via contamination from heart medication her grandfather was taking. Valieva’s B sample has not yet been opened.
As part of the investigation, both the Russian anti-doping authorities and WADA will look at members of Valieva’s entourage – something which Bach said was welcome.
“We trust WADA that this will come to light, we will not hesitate to take the appropriate measures, these will be very strong measures,” said the IOC boss.
Meanwhile, Valieva has been offered strong support in Russia and is due to arrive back in her homeland on Friday after flying out of Beijing.