Winter Olympics: Tearful Kamila Valieva cheered as she tops figure skating leaderboard

Kamila Valieva

Kamila Valieva was cheered on as she returned to the ice at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, just days after it was found she had failed a drugs test in December.

It was revealed last week that Valieva had tested positive for banned substance trimetazidine at last year’s Russian Figure Skating Championships in Saint Petersburg.

The sample was only analysed by a World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratory on February 8th, however, after Valieva had already helped Russia to a gold medal in the team figure skating event.

The 15-year-old was handed a provisional suspension, but this was lifted by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency after she challenged the decision.

The International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency subsequently launched an appeal, challenging RUSADA’s decision to lift the suspension.

But the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Valieva’s “exceptional circumstances” meant she should not be provisionally banned, allowing her to compete in today’s figure skating event.

Valieva topped the leaderboard in the women’s short programme, scoring 82.16 points after a two-minute 40-second routine.

She stumbled on a jump and was visibly emotional at the end of the routine, when she was cheered on by the crowd at the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing.

There were no spectators allowed into the venue due to COVID-19 regulations, but the seats were still full of athletes, their entourages and members of family.

Valieva was also cheered as her name was announced before the competition began.

Her compatriot Anna Shcherbakova placed second with 80.20 points, followed by Kaori Sakamoto of Japan on 79.84.

The women’s figure skating competition will continue on Thursday with the free skate. If Valieva is to maintain her place at the top of the leaderboard, she will not be awarded a medal during the Games.

The IOC announced a medal ceremony would not be held until the outcome of the anti-doping investigation into Valieva’s positive result.

A three-person CAS panel explained its decision to clear Valieva to compete earlier this week. It took into account a number of factors, including the figure skater’s status as a protected athlete due to her age.

The ruling revealed “serious issues of untimely notification of the results” of the failed test had also played a part in its decision.

“Such late notification was not her fault, in the middle of the Olympic Winter Games,” the panel said.

The teenager will likely face a full doping hearing after the conclusion of the Games, however, and could well be stripped of any medals won in Beijing.

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