Kamila Valieva Will Continue to Compete in Olympics, Panel Rules

Figure skater Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) will be allowed to continue competing in the Olympics, a panel from the Court of Arbitration for Sport determined on Feb. 14. Valieva's status was in jeopardy after she tested positive for trimetazidine, a substance banned by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA). Among its reasons for letting Valieva compete: the CAS panel cited her age of 15, which makes her a "protected person" with lower penalties under the World Anti-Doping Code; the fact that Valieva's positive test was taken in December and that she hasn't tested positive in the Olympics; and the "irreparable harm" that a ban would cause to Valieva. The CAS panel also noted that there were "serious issues" surrounding the timing of the positive result notifications.

The hearing did not directly address the results of the figure skating team competition, where Valieva helped the ROC claim gold. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and WADA may potentially appeal the CAS panel's ruling, a process that could take weeks or months to complete, according to USA Today. When a final decision is made, the International Skating Union will figure out how it effects the medals in the team event that have yet to be distributed. The US won silver, and Japan earned bronze, but if the ROC was disqualified, the US would get gold, Japan silver, and Canada bronze.

The backstory of Valieva's positive test is a complicated one. The skater tested positive for trimetazidine at the Russian national championships in December, which she went on to win. That test was administrated by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA). That agency didn't receive the positive test results until Feb. 8, and that six-week delay was one factor that led the CAS to rule in Valieva's favor. RUSADA imposed a provisional ban on Valieva on Feb. 8, Valieva challenged the ban on Feb. 9, and RUSADA made the decision to lift it that same day.

The case came to the CAS panel in the form of an appeal lodged by the IOC and WADA. Both organizations were asking the CAS to reinstate the provisional ban that RUSADA originally placed on Valieva. That appeal was denied, and the result is that the provisional ban won't be reinstated, meaning that Valieva will ultimately be able to continue competing at the 2022 Olympics.

Valieva had left a mark on the Games even before the news around her positive test. She placed first in both of her team-event routines and made headlines in her free skate for becoming the first woman to land a quad jump at the Olympics. In just her first season at the senior level, Valieva won gold at the European Championships in January and set records for the highest short-program and free-skate scores ever recorded. However, unease persists in the figure skating community about the tactics of her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, known for burning out young women skaters, pushing them to injury, and sacrificing their longevity to win medals. Tutberidze also coaches the two other women skaters on the Russian team, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova.

The drug Valieva tested positive for, trimetazidine, is typically prescribed to treat the heart condition angina. The drug, sometimes called TMZ, is also known to improve blood flow and physical efficiency for athletes. WADA classifies it as a "metabolic modulator" and has listed it as a banned substance since 2014. Russia, meanwhile, is currently serving out a larger doping-related punishment that technically prohibits it from competing at the 2022 Olympics (hence why the country's athletes are competing for the "Russian Olympic Committee.") That ruling was handed down after a whistleblower exposed its state-run doping program, which came in the lead-up to the country's successful showing at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.