MONTREAL: The World Anti-Doping Agency has welcomed the decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to uphold its appeal and impose a four-year period of ineligibility on the Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva.

All her results have been quashed since the sample collection on December 25, 2021, including all her results during the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing.

The then-15-year-old Valieva tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine, a heart medication which can boost endurance, on December 25, 2021 at the 2022 Russian Figure Skating Championships in Saint Petersburg, Russia. However, the positive test was not confirmed by an internationally-accredited laboratory until February 8, a day after she helped ROC win gold, landing the first ever quadruple jump by a woman in Olympic competition. Valieva’s team had finished first ahead of the USA and Japan but the medals were not awarded because of Valieva’s doping case.

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency promptly imposed a provisional suspension on Valieva but lifted the suspension the following day after the now 17-year-old lodged an appeal. Hence the skater continued to compete at the Beijing Games.

During that time the Court of Arbitration for Sport also cleared Valieva to compete at the Games, stating that “on the basis of the very limited facts of this case, and after consideration of the relevant legal issues, it has determined that no provisional suspension should be imposed on the athlete.” The CAS panel also explained that it had considered that preventing the athlete from competing would cause her “irreparable harm”.

Valieva claimed the positive test was the result of a mix-up with her grandfather’s heart medication and RUSADA’s independent Anti-Disciplinary Committee found her not guilty.

A RUSADA investigation found that there was “no fault or negligence” on the part of Valieva and she should only be disqualified from the Russian Championships.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Skating Union (ISU)  had been seeking a suspension of up to four years and the annulment of all her results since the day she tested positive.

WADA and the ISU appealed against RUSADA’s ruling before CAS, and even a portion of the decision was appealed by RUSADA itself.

In September 2023, three CAS judges met in Lausanne, Switzerland, to hear the long-running case with Valieva, and some of the experts and witnesses taking part via videoconference.

On January 29, 2024, CAS set aside the decision taken by  RUSADA’s independent Anti-Disciplinary Committee on January 24, 2023 in relation to Kamila Valieva and ruled that Valieva is found to have committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Clause 4.1 of the All-Russian Anti-Doping Rules of 24 June 2021.

A WADA statement said:

WADA took this appeal to CAS in the interests of fairness for athletes and clean sport and we believe that has been delivered through this decision.

The doping of children is unforgivable. Doctors, coaches or other support personnel who are found to have provided performance-enhancing substances to minors should face the full force of the World Anti-Doping Code. Indeed, WADA encourages governments to consider passing legislation – as some have done already – making the doping of minors a criminal offence.

On 24 January 2024, WADA’s Intelligence and Investigations Department published the report from ‘Operation Refuge’, a broad analysis and examination of doping among minors in sport. The report describes in detail the deep trauma and isolation many child athletes experience following a positive doping test. The report recommends that a greater emphasis be placed on education and the provision of specific policies and procedures for dealing with minors.

WADA understands the frustration of the affected parties in relation to the time it took to complete this case. Indeed, WADA shared those frustrations, which is why, at every stage of the process, including during the first instance proceedings in Russia, WADA pushed hard for a timely resolution.

** The impact that this disqualification of results will have on the outcome of the team figure skating competition at Beijing 2022 is a matter for the International Skating Union and the International Olympic Committee.