Kamila Valieva's Positive Drugs Test Raises Specter of Russia's Olympic Scandals

Kamila Valieva's future at the Beijing Games hangs in the balance on Friday, with Russian newspaper Kommersant reporting that "intrigue remains around the Olympic fate of [the skater] and the gold of the Russian team."

After anti-doping authorities confirmed that the 15-year-old had failed a drug test before the Winter Olympics, the Kremlin issued a statement on Friday morning.

"We are convinced that this is some kind of misunderstanding," said spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

According to the news agency Tass, he also told reporters: "Our sports officials have certain questions about the timing of testing Valieva's samples."

Outside Russia, the case is raising different questions: over allowing a Russian team to compete at the Games despite the country's ban for state-sponsored doping. It also places a teenager at the center of a tussle between Moscow and the International Olympic Committee.

The International Testing Agency is now appealing the decision by Russia's anti-doping authorities to allow Valieva to compete in Beijing. Reports that she had tested positive for a banned heart medication began to emerge on Tuesday, when the IOC cancelled the ceremony in which the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) was due to receive the gold medal.

On Monday, February 7, the 15-year-old's dominant performances had led her figure skating team to victory.

According to the International Testing Agency, on February 8, a sample taken from Valieva on December 25 tested positive for trimetazidine and she was provisionally suspended by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA). But this suspension was successfully challenged on February 9.

In Beijing, Valieva is turning up to practice as usual and the statements issued by the ROC suggest that it expects she will be allowed to compete in the women's individual event and to collect the gold she won with her team.

"The Russian Olympic Committee is taking comprehensive measures to protect the rights and interests of the members of the ROC team, and to keep the honestly won Olympic gold medal," the ROC said.

"Given that the athlete's positive doping test was not taken during the Olympic Games, the results of the athlete and the team tournament are not subject to automatic review," added the statement, reported by Russian news agencies.

It also pointed out that Valieva had returned negative doping tests after last month's European Figure Skating Championships in Estonia and during the Olympics.

It is now up to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to decide as it hears an expedited case on Valieva before she is due to take part in the individual event on Tuesday.

The ITA, representing the IOC, said the hearing would only consider the question of the provisional ban for these Games.

"The IOC will exercise its right to appeal and not to wait for the reasoned decision by RUSADA," the ITA said.

Years of doping controversies—culminating in the scandal-plagued Winter Olympics held in the Russian city of Sochi in 2014—have meant Russia can only compete in Beijing as the ROC, without its anthem or flag. The IOC and World Anti-Doping Agency even set up the ITA in response to Russian doping.

Under the World Anti-Doping Code now in force, Valieva has protections as a minor and could receive just a simple reprimand.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said it was "very important" for everybody, including Valieva, "that we have due process, that it's seen to be done properly, and that people can have confidence in the decisions that are taken."

Russia's Kamila Valieva
Kamila Valieva at a training session on February 11. The teenage skater is now at the center of the long-running tussle between the IOC and Russia. ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/Getty