Russian skating star sends coded message after doping case ordeal
Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva revisited her Beijing Olympic doping scandal as the teenage star unveiled two new routines in Moscow at the weekend.
Appearing at the Russian national team test skates on Sunday, Valieva used her free skate routine to convey her feelings about the ordeal which overshadowed her appearance at the Winter Olympics back in February.
Clad all in black, the 16-year-old began her performance to the sound of extracts from news reports discussing the doping scandal.
The performance culminated with Valieva using part of her outfit to cover her face – repeating the scenes from Beijing when the teenager had been forced to shield herself from the intense media glare after it emerged she had tested positive for a banned heart drug in a sample taken six weeks before the Games began.
“For me, the most important thing was to convey my story through the program. It seems to me that it succeeded,” said Valieva.
The skater said her coaching team had come up with the theme, including the references to the scandal which erupted in Beijing.
“Eteri Tutberidze and Daniil Gleikhengauz suggested this idea, asked me if I would like to touch on this topic again,” said Valieva.
“It seemed to me that this situation needed to be lived, and I agreed. Two features in the program – putting on a hood and the inclusion of snippets of news – they also came up with.”
For people who don’t follow skating but heard about the Olympic doping scandal— Kamila Valieva, who tested positive for banned substance trimetazadine, just debuted her new free skate which ends with this pose on the right, the same as the bag she wore on her head in Beijing 2022 pic.twitter.com/7aPjr3lfJk— Rita Wenxin Wang (@RitawWang) September 25, 2022
Valieva appeared tearful at the end of her performance and admitted that it had brought back memories from Beijing.
“I’m glad that so many people came out to support us. I’m glad that I was able to touch the souls of people and that they lived through this story with me,” said the skater.
“When I skated this program in training, I had no tears. But now I came out [to perform], and it was as if I had been plunged into this situation again.
“I understood that tears were welling up in me, and I still need to skate the program.”
Valieva’s short skate routine one day previously at Moscow’s Megasport Palace had begun with a more subtle reference to her doping scandal woes, as she spelled out the Morse code for ‘vera’ – meaning ‘faith’ or ‘belief’ in English – with her hand.
Valieva’s Winter Olympic dreams unraveled in February when it was reported that she had tested positive for trimetazidine, based on a sample collected at the Russian National Championships in December.
Valieva, who was 15 at the time, had already helped her country to gold in the figure skating team event in Beijing by the time the news emerged.
She was cleared to compete in the women’s individual event by an emergency Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing, but finished a disappointing fourth despite being the firm favorite for the gold.
Russia’s Anna Shcherbakova topped the podium, followed by compatriot Alexandra Trusova in second.
Valieva’s team have denied any wrongdoing in her case, arguing that the positive test may have come as a result of heart medication her grandfather was taking.
Russian officials have said Valieva consistently passed other doping tests, while questions have been asked regarding the length of time it took the laboratory accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Stockholm, Sweden, to return the results of her sample.
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) has been charged with looking into Valieva’s case and announced last week that it had concluded its investigation.
A hearing with the RUSADA anti-doping disciplinary committee (DAK) is scheduled for the end of September or early October, according to RUSADA general director Veronika Loginova.
WADA officials have said they are closely monitoring the case ahead.
Speaking after Valieva’s routine on Sunday, Russian former ice dance Olympic champion Tatiana Navka praised her performance as showing the youngster’s resilience.
“It’s impossible to talk about this program without a lump in the throat. Kamila proved to the whole world that Russians don’t give up easily,” said Navka.
“I’m glad that, in spite of everything, she composed herself, is getting on with life, is fighting and delights the audience…
“She is just great. Thank God Kamila still had a chance to prove that she is the strongest figure skater on the planet,” Navka added of the world record points holder.
Valieva was among a host of stars to perform in Moscow at the weekend.
Former world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, 25, also skated, while Olympic silver medalist Trusova showcased her new short-skate routine before pulling out of the free skate with a back injury.
Olympic champion Shcherbakova was absent after undergoing knee surgery in Germany, although she recently returned to training.
Russian skaters are set to be mostly confined to domestic competition for the new season because of a suspension imposed by the International Skating Union (ISU) because of the conflict in Ukraine, which will bar them from global events such as the ISU Grand Prix series.