Valieva’s ‘perfection’ cannot be achieved by cheating, says Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin has hailed the contribution of figure skater Kamila Valieva to her country’s success at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, dismissing the doping row which engulfed the teenager at the Games.
Valieva was among a host of Russian Olympic and Paralympic athletes welcomed at the Kremlin on Tuesday for a special ceremony to honor their achievements.
Putin took the time to single out Valieva for praise as he addressed the assembled sports stars inside the iconic St. Catherine Hall.
“[Kamila Valieva] absorbed into her talent all the most complex elements of figure skating, its suppleness, beauty, power and tenderness,” said Putin, according to RIA.
“With her efforts she elevated sport to the height of true art. Such perfection cannot be achieved dishonestly with the help of some additional means [or] manipulation.”
Valieva, who turns 16 on Tuesday, was congratulated by Putin on the occasion of her birthday, and in return said it had been a particular honor to spend the day at the Kremlin.
“We’re glad that you took the time to meet with us,” said Valieva as she addressed Putin.
“It’s an honor for me to receive an award on my 16th birthday. Thank you for your love of sports and supporting athletes, this is important for us.”
Valieva emerged as the biggest story at the 2022 Beijing Olympics back in February.
Heading into the Games as an all-conquering world record points holder for her spellbinding routines, Valieva helped the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) to gold in the figure skating team event during the opening week of competition in Beijing.
However, scandal struck when the news emerged of a positive test for banned heart drug trimetazidine, based on a sample Valieva had submitted on the way to winning the Russian national championships in December.
Questions were asked as to why the result had taken so long to be reported by the WADA lab which checked the sample in Stockholm.
After a legal battle heard by an emergency Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) panel, Valieva was cleared to compete in the women’s singles event in Beijing, but the ordeal took its toll as she finished a disappointing fourth following a tearful, error-strewn free skate routine.
Countrywoman Anna Shcherbakova took home gold, followed by Russia’s Alexandra Trusova.
The issue of the Russian gold medal won in the team event and a potential ban for Valieva is still being resolved as WADA and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) investigate the positive sample, which Valieva’s team has suggested could have come via contamination from heart medicine her grandfather was taking.
They also pointed to the fact that Valieva passed doping tests before and after the positive sample.
Olympic silver medalist Trusova was among those present at the Kremlin on Tuesday, although Olympic champion Shcherbakova was absent as she is preparing for an exhibition event. Both were mentioned for their achievements by Putin.
Addressing the athletes collectively, the president said he was proud of their performances in Beijing, where Russians left with a haul of 32 medals – behind only Norway in terms of total number.
“Without any exaggeration, your brilliant and strong-willed victories, and all our Olympians, Russian athletes, provided real decoration to the Games,” said Putin.
“Many fans, not only in our country, but all over the world, looked at this with admiration and rejoiced. You once again proved that you are among the best athletes in the world.”
Russian stars were offered a celebratory glass of champagne on Tuesday, although Kremlin staff noted that a soft-drink alternative was available to those underage such as Valieva.
The observation raised a smile from the skating star, according to Match TV.