Michael Pavitt

The best way to view the current situation is that there are two cases.

The first case will determine whether Kamila Valieva is free to compete in the women’s singles competition, due to begin next Tuesday (February 15).

The case will centre on the reasoned decision reached by Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) to lift the provisional suspension.

The International Testing Agency are acting on behalf of the International Olympic Committee and International Skating Union (ISU) in this case. The World Anti-Doping Agency is also part of the case, with the watchdog appealing on the grounds that the WADA Code "has not been correctly applied in this case".

Should their appeal to have the provisional suspension reimposed be rejected, Valieva would be able to compete, just as she has been able to train the past two days.

"There is the immediate case and appeal and longer-term case which needs to be heard," IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said yesterday. "Through ITA we are taking the action we are - we want to expedite this as quickly as possible.

"For all those concerned, not just the Russian athlete, but all athletes concerned in previous competitions we all need to see as quickly as we can a resolution for this."

The longer-term case centres on the positive test itself.

The much-scrutinised RUSADA will be responsible for handling the adverse analytical finding, given that the sample was collected by the organisation curing the Russian Figure Skating Championship in Saint Petersburg on December 25.

Kamila Valieva is currently clear to compete next week in the Olympic women's singles but is the centre of intense scrutiny at Beijing 2022 ©Getty Images
Kamila Valieva is currently clear to compete next week in the Olympic women's singles but is the centre of intense scrutiny at Beijing 2022 ©Getty Images

Trimetazidine, a medicine usually used to prevent angina attacks and help blood flow to the heart, is prohibited both in and out-of-competition.

China’s three-time Olympic champion Sun Yang was given a three-month sanction back in 2014 after a positive test for the same substance, while Russian bobsleigh Nadezhda Sergeeva received an eight-month suspension and disqualification from Pyeongchang 2018 for the same reason.

Valieva can request the B-sample be analysed which, given the noise coming from Russia at the moment, appears an inevitability.

For a start, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) issued a statement today saying it is taking "comprehensive measures" to "keep the honestly won Olympic gold medal" in the team event.

Under the rules of the World Anti-Doping Code, Valieva is a "Protected Person", due to being under the age of 16. This means mandatory public disclosure is not required, but would instead by "proportionate to the facts and circumstances of the case".

Should she be sanctioned, the period of ineligibility would range between "a maximum of two years and, at a minimum, a reprimand and no period of ineligibility, depending on the Protected Person or Recreational Athlete’s degree of Fault."

The potential pathways are complicated from a sporting perspective, with Valieva potentially having the prospect of having zero, one or two medals.

A scenario exists where the ITA and WADA fails in its appeal to reinstate the provisional suspension, Valieva is cleared to compete and is ultimately sanctioned with two potential medals placed at risk - depending on the extent of any sanction.

Alternatively, a provisional suspension could be reimposed, preventing her from contesting the women’s singles competition, only for her to be cleared of a rule violation at a later date. This scenario would see the ROC confirmed as team winners.

Equally she could be cleared to compete by CAS, before being exonerated or have a minimal/no period of ineligibility imposed. Two medals would be possible in this scenario.

The CAS will determine whether Kamila Valieva can compete in the women's singles event ©Getty Images
The CAS will determine whether Kamila Valieva can compete in the women's singles event ©Getty Images

The overall case arguably goes beyond a single athlete, as well as the sports and doping issue.

Welfare is central to this case.

The majority of people are understandably wondering how and why trimetazidine has ended up in Valieva’s system in the first place. Not just because she was nicknamed "Miss Perfect" and billed as potentially the greatest female figure skater in history.

But because she is 15-years-old.

The protected person status ensures an investigation would automatically be triggered into Valieva’s entourage, and rightly so.

Sport has seen is fair share of welfare scandals in recent years, where the roles of coaches and team officials have come under the spotlight.

The spotlight in this case should be on those around Valieva, rather than the teenager herself.

IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said today that "the coaches, doctors and everyone around the athlete - it's important that they have their responsibility".

The IOC President, Thomas Bach, had highlighted the importance of better cooperation with governments when it comes to identifying and sanctioning those in the athletes' entourage involved in doping cases when speaking at the Fifth World Conference on Doping in Sport in Katowice, back in 2019.

"We need zero tolerance for everybody: athletes and entourage," he said. "By putting the focus more on the entourage, by holding everybody implicated in a doping case accountable in a robust and deterrent way, and by close cooperation between all anti-doping stakeholders, we can take a major step forward to strengthen justice and credibility for the protection of the clean athletes and to drain the doping swamp."

The medal ceremony for the team event remains delayed ©Getty Images
The medal ceremony for the team event remains delayed ©Getty Images

The case looks set to test several relationships and systems that have been tested and often found wanting over the duration of the Russian doping scandal.

The role of RUSADA will be scrutinised, with the organisation’s independence having been repeatedly questioned during its ongoing two-year sanction. The organisation, last night, confirmed it had begun an investigation into Valieva's entourage.

The sanction has led to Russia’s name, flag and anthem being banned from World Championship and Olympic events and the country being prohibited from bidding to host such competitions.

The case marks yet another edition of the Olympic Games where a Russian doping case has taken attention away from sporting action.

Four years ago, at Pyeongchang 2018 the IOC had defended the presence of athletes from the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) as it would give an opportunity to a new generation of Russian athletes.

Four years on one of Russia’s youngest athletes is at the centre of a storm. 

It will lead to some wondering, the athletes have changed, but have the officials and coaches?