Kamila Valieva’s controversial Olympic saga to be determined at appeal hearing

Let’s start with this: As of right now, 15-year-old Russian figure skating sensation Kamila Valieva is eligible to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

She was suspended by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency earlier this week for having a banned substance in her system during a test taken back in December that was only recently processed. However, she quickly won an appeal of that suspension.

The International Olympic Committee is now appealing that appeal, so Valieva could still possibly wind up disqualified from the Olympics prior to next week’s women’s figure skating individual competition, in which she is the significant favorite to win gold. Russia could also still be stripped of its gold medal in the team competition. (The United States won silver.)

Before we get the timeline and back and forth in the ongoing saga, however, just know that this is the main takeaway:

The IOC is relying on doping enforcement concerning a Russian figure skater from the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, the very doping agency of a country, Russia, that the IOC officially banned from participating in these very Winter Olympics (and the two prior) because it operated a massive and sophisticated doping operation. There’s foxes and hen houses and then there is whatever this system is.

So nothing is for certain as of now. Or maybe ever.

Kamila Valieva of Russia performs during the Women Single Skating - Free Skating of the Figure Skating Team Event at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games. (Alexander Mysyakin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Kamila Valieva of Russia performs during the Women Single Skating - Free Skating of the Figure Skating Team Event at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games. (Alexander Mysyakin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

As for what happened in a doping scandal that has overwhelmed the skating competition and potentially the entire Winter Olympics, here’s a timeline.

On Christmas Day 2021, Valieva was tested for performance-enhancing drugs in St. Petersburg, Russia, under the authority of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA).

On Feb. 8, 2022, a day after Valieva helped Russia win gold in the team competition at the Beijing Winter Olympics, the tests, processed in a Swedish lab, came back positive. There was no explanation on why it took 6 1/2 weeks for the test to be returned.

RUSADA immediately imposed a “provisional suspension” that prohibited Valieva from participating, or even practicing, at the Olympics.

However, Valieva appealed that decision and the next day the RUSADA Disciplinary Anti-Doping Commission lifted the suspension.

Why? No one was immediately saying. The International Testing Service would promise only “the grounds for which the provisional suspension was lifted will be issued shortly to all concerned parties.”

Because the individual competition is approaching quickly — Feb. 15 — the IOC has immediately appealed and the International Testing Service will lead that appeal before what is called the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

No date was released for the decision on that appeal (of the appeal).

Confused? Almost everyone is.

“In this case, it is an active case, and it would be wrong for anyone to make any comment," said IOC spokesman Mark Adams. "I think people need to be careful on their wild speculation on an active case.”

Right now, Valieva is in. The key word being “now.”

Valieva is the biggest star in figure skating and one of the biggest at these Winter Olympics. She is a breathtaking skater, capable of flawlessly landing three quads in her long program while maintaining precision and grace. Only three female skaters at these Games even attempt quad jumps. The other two are Russian as well.

Valieva has been met with both excitement and suspicion in international skating. There is no denying the brilliance of her routine, but what is eye-popping is also eyebrow-raising.

In just four months on the senior circuit, she has never lost and delivered the three highest score totals in the history of figure skating. Her current mark is nearly 10% higher than any other woman, ever, has scored. Despite this being her first Olympics, some already hail her as the greatest skater of all time because of the degree of difficulty in her routine.

In a case of someone perhaps being too good to be true, the word that she failed a drug test set off a firestorm.

The International Testing Service stated her sample produced an “adverse analytical finding for the non-specified prohibited substance trimetazidine.” That drug is generally used with heart patients. However, it can aid athletic performance by improving blood flow and increasing stamina.

Adding to the drama is Valieva’s young age. Since she is under the age of 16, the World Anti-Doping Agency deems her a “Protected Person.” It has the right to rule she is too young and naive to know what substances she was being given. That could cause Valieva to avoid suspension or expulsion and just receive a reprimand. Presumably the adults responsible for administering the drug would be targeted instead.

Whether the "Protected Person" clause played a role in RUSADA’s decision to grant her appeal is unknown.

That said, if it was, then the Russian Anti-Doping Agency would be allowing a Russian to continue to compete because she was so young that she can’t be held accountable for a Russian coaching and training system doping a child.

Again, this entire process is dizzying.