In a stunning rebuke of Russia’s notorious doping system, the Court of Arbitration for Sport banned Russian Olympic figure skater Kamila Valieva Monday morning for four years and said her 2022 Olympic results were disqualified, ending an unprecedented and protracted international sports drama that has dragged on for nearly two years.
The CAS ruling means that the International Skating Union, the worldwide governing body for figure skating, will now be called upon to decide the results of the 2022 team figure skating competition based on the arbitration panel’s decision. If Valieva’s results are disallowed and/or the Russian team is disqualified, the ISU is likely to move the United States up to the gold medal, followed by Japan with the silver medal and fourth-place finisher Canada moving up to win the bronze medal.
“It is now imperative for the ISU to effectuate the technical decision of her disqualification from the Games and redistribute the medals to the right winners,” U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart told USA TODAY Sports immediately after the CAS decision was announced.
In response to the CAS decision, Tygart said: “It’s the right outcome and let’s hope the clean athletes who competed in the Games can finally have some joy and satisfaction for their long wait for some justice despite their moment never being replaced. At the same time, our hearts hurt for yet another Russian athlete who the system failed, this one a young 15-year old girl. The system has to fix itself.”
The decision comes 720 days after Valieva, then 15, led Russia to the gold medal in the Olympic team event in Beijing on Feb. 7, 2022. The United States finished second and Japan was third.
But the next day, the medal ceremony for the event was canceled and the results were thrown into disarray after Valieva was found to have tested positive for the banned heart medication trimetazidine six weeks earlier at the Russian championships.
Once the ISU rules on who wins the medals, how the skaters will actually receive their medals is anyone’s guess. One idea that has been floated is to honor the medal winners with a ceremony at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games this summer.
There certainly is no playbook for this. Never before has an Olympic medal ceremony been canceled, so never before have athletes had to wait what will actually end up being more than two years to receive their medals.
After the Beijing Olympics ended, the sole organization charged with beginning the Valieva investigation was the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, which itself was suspended from 2015-2018 for helping Russian athletes cheat. Not surprisingly, RUSADA dithered and delayed through most of the rest of 2022, setting the process back by months.
Valieva’s hearing in front of a three-member CAS panel was held in late September 2023 in Lausanne, Switzerland, but was further delayed when the arbitrators ordered “the production of further documentation,” necessitating another meeting in early November before the arbitrators’ deliberations began.
Outrage on behalf of the athletes from the United States and Japan has accompanied this controversy from the moment Valieva’s positive drug test forced the cancellation of the medal ceremony.
“Justice hasn’t just been denied for the athletes who have been waiting nearly two years now for their medals,” Tygart told USA TODAY Sports in November. “Justice has been defeated. The athletes will never be able to replace the moment they would have had on the Olympic medal podium.”