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Kamila Valiyeva given retroactive 4-year doping ban; Olympic results could be changed

Kamila Valieva

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 17: Kamila Valieva of Team ROC skates during the Women Single Skating Free Skating on day thirteen of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Capital Indoor Stadium on February 17, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

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Russian figure skater Kamila Valiyeva was banned four years, backdated to Christmas 2021, the date of her positive drug test, and had her 2022 Olympic results disqualified in a court ruling.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) also ruled that a decision on changing the results of the 2022 Olympic team event — where Valiyeva was on a team of skaters from Russia that provisionally won over the U.S. — is up to sports officials. The medal ceremony for the team event was postponed until Valiyeva’s case would be adjudicated.

The International Skating Union (ISU), which decides Olympic figure skating results, said it will publish “a full statement with regard to the implications of the CAS decision” on Tuesday.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland said in a statement that the CAS decision is “a significant win not only for Team USA athletes but also for athletes worldwide who practice fair play and advocate for clean sport.”

“We now anticipate the day when we can wholeheartedly celebrate these athletes, along with their peers from around the world,” she said. “Their moment is approaching, and when it arrives, it will serve as a testament to the justice and recognition they truly deserve.”

The CAS panel decided that Valiyeva was at fault for her positive test for Trimetazidine, a heart medication banned in international sport without a therapeutic use exemption.

Valiyeva was 15 years old at the time of the test.

International anti-doping rules have a provision that athletes under the age of 16 may face lesser punishments for doping violations than those 16 and over, including a reprimand rather than a suspension, depending on the case.

However, the CAS panel said that Russia’s anti-doping rules pertaining to Valiyeva’s case do not differentiate based on age.

“There is no basis under the rules to treat them any differently from an adult athlete,” it ruled. “Accordingly, since it was determined that there was no scope for the exercise of discretion to reduce the period of ineligibility, a four-year period of ineligibility was imposed by the panel.”

CAS rulings are final with an exception to appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal within 30 days on limited procedural grounds.

Valiyeva continued to compete domestically after the 2022 Olympics. She placed third at the Russian Championships in late December. Barring successful appeal, she can return to competition seven weeks before the next Olympics.

Valiyeva was the world’s top women’s singles skater going into the 2022 Olympics.

After helping a team of skaters from Russia win the Olympic team event, news surfaced that she tested positive for the banned heart medication from a sample taken more than a month earlier.

After the positive test surfaced, Valiyeva was allowed to compete in the individual Olympic event after a Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) disciplinary committee lifted her suspension upon appeal by the skater.

The committee cited, among other reasons, a “low” amount of the banned substance in Valiyeva’s sample, that she tested negative before and after the Dec. 25 test and that, as an athlete under the age of 16, she had less of a burden of proof.

The International Olympic Committee, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the ISU then appealed RUSADA’s lifting of the suspension to CAS, which ruled that Valiyeva could compete in the Olympics while her case was still being adjudicated.

Back then, the CAS panel largely based that decision on an “untenable delay” in Valiyeva’s sample test results being processed through a Stockholm lab, which led to a short time frame to rule on her Olympic eligibility during the Games. “This case was not about the underlying alleged anti-doping rule violation and the panel takes no position on that,” it stated in February 2022.

Valiyeva topped the Olympic short program, then struggled in the free skate and finished fourth overall.

Then last January, a RUSADA tribunal said Valiyeva bore “no fault or negligence” for her positive drug test.

WADA and the ISU appealed to CAS, which began its hearing in September.

WADA sought a four-year ban, plus disqualifying her 2022 Olympic results. The ISU wanted “a period of ineligibility at CAS’s own discretion,” backdated to Christmas 2021 and including the disqualification of results during the period.

All Russian figure skaters have been banned from international competition since shortly after the 2022 Olympics due to the invasion of Ukraine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.