Russian star figure skater Kamila Valieva tested positive for a banned substance during December's Russian Figure Skating Championships, the International Testing Agency confirmed Friday, as rumors of her positive tests swirled in reports for days. However, a decision on her competing in the women's individual event at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing will now go to an appeal hearing.
Valieva was a heavy favorite in the women's event after scoring a record-high total in the team competition.
A World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited lab found Valieva tested positive for trimetazidine, a heart medication, in a sample taken on Dec. 25, 2021, by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, known as RUSADA. RUSADA was notified of the positive result Feb. 8, at which time Valieva was provisionally suspended. The sample was collected by RUSADA, not the ITA, according to the agency, and not under the direct jurisdiction of the International Olympic Committee and thus her identity was not revealed.
The ITA was informed of the positive test on Feb. 8, after the team event was wrapped up with the Russian Olympic Committee winning gold.
The testing agency said it does not typically reveal the name of minors -- Valieva is just 15 years old -- but did so due to "the necessity for official information due to heightened public interest."
The suspension prohibited her from competing further in the Beijing Games, and thus the individual event, however, Valieva appealed the suspension and RUSADA cleared her to compete on Feb. 9.
The ROC confirmed the chain of events and named Valieva in a statement Friday, saying the committee "considers it necessary to provide detailed explanations on the current situation."
"The doping test of the Athlete who gave a positive result does not apply to the period of the Olympic Games," the ROC said. "At the same time, the Athlete repeatedly passed doping tests before and after December 25, 2021, including already in Beijing during the figure skating tournament. All results are negative."
However, the IOC is now challenging RUSADA's decision, according to the ITA, and the IOC said a rushed decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will take place before the women's event.
"The IOC will exercise its right to appeal and not to wait for the reasoned decision by RUSADA, because a decision is needed before the next competition the athlete is due to take part in (Women Single Skating, 15 February 2022)," the ITA said in a statement Friday.
The International Skating Union (ISU) later released a statement saying it "will exercise its right to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport the decision of the RUSADA Disciplinary Anti Doping Committee of February 9 to lift the provisional suspension and to ask CAS to reinstate the provisional suspension."
The WADA also confirmed in a statement that it "intends to lodge an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in relation to the anti-doping case involving a Russian Olympic Committee figure skater who tested positive for a prohibited substance in an event prior to the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing."
"Under the terms of the World Anti-Doping Code (Code), WADA has a right to appeal the decision to lift the provisional suspension before CAS and does so on the grounds that the Code has not been correctly applied in this case," the agency added.
The ROC noted in its statement that Valieva currently "has the right to train and take part in competitions in full without restrictions until the Court of Arbitration for Sport decides otherwise regarding her status in relation to the Olympic Games."
"In any case, on the merits of a possible anti-doping violation, a disciplinary investigation will be conducted by RAA RUSADA in accordance with the applicable rules in the prescribed manner," the ROC said. "Given that the Athlete's positive doping test was not taken during the Olympic Games, the Athlete's results and team competition results during the Olympic Games are not subject to automatic review. In addition, the Russian Olympic Committee draws attention to the fact that the Athlete’s doping test, taken after the European Figure Skating Championships in January 2022, as well as her doping test taken during the Olympic Games, gave a negative result."
"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 committee added. "The Russian Figure Skating Federation has no doubts about the honesty and purity of its Athlete, will make every effort to clarify the circumstances of the incident and provide the Athlete with the necessary comprehensive assistance and support."
The reports began to grow in intensity after the medal ceremony for Russia's gold medal-winning team, helmed by Valieva, was delayed. The ITA said Friday that a decision on whether the ROC will be able to keep its medals after the full appeal process for Valieva takes place, which will come once an analysis of her B sample is completed.
The figure skating team event medal ceremony was delayed due to what the IOC described as "legal issues."
The medal ceremony was scheduled for Tuesday, before it was postponed. The athletes still have not received their medals.
Russia won gold in the team event, while the United States and Japan won silver and bronze, respectively.
Russian news outlets reported that Valieva tested positive for a banned drug before the Olympics, resulting in the ceremony being postponed. Russian newspapers RBC and Kommersant reported that Valieva tested positive for trimetazidine, a medication used to treat chest pain.
Valieva made history in the event when she became the first woman to land a quadruple jump at the Winter Olympics. She won the women's portion of the team event, earning the ROC 10 points.
"I am glad that I was able to do the quad Salchow, quad toe and the triple Axel," she said, according to the ISU. "Only the second quad toe did not happen, but I'll work on that."
The young skater is scheduled to compete again in the women's singles event next week.
Valieva is the only minor on the ROC team who participated in the team event.
Russian athlete are competing under the name "Russian Olympic Committee" due to an ongoing ban against Russia participating in the games due to its previous doping violations. This is the second Olympics in a row that Russia has been banned from.
The WADA banned the country from all international sporting events because of its doping violations.
The agency allowed athletes who could prove they are clean and unconnected to the cover-up to compete.