The highest court in sports sanctioned Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva for doping violations at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. The ruling means U.S. skaters will receive gold medals after they finished second behind Valieva and her teammates in the team competition.
The case rocked the Olympics when, about 24 hours after she led Russia to the victory in the team event, details about a sample taken six weeks earlier at Russia's national championships revealed there was a banned heart medication in her system.
More than a half-dozen proceedings and appeals took place over the ensuing 23 months, culminating in Monday's decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sports, which is essentially the supreme court for international sports events.
A look at the case, and what happens next:
ABOUT THE MEDALS
Several hours after the CAS decision, the IOC notified the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee that the gold would be going to the U.S. skaters and that the two would coordinate to “organize a dignified Olympic medal ceremony.”
What happens to silver and bronze is less certain. Japan finished third and would be in line to get the silver. Depending on how a scoring rule is interpreted, Russia could still finish third — ahead of Canada — even after deducting Valieva’s points from the two events she skated in during the team event.
How and where the medals will be presented is still anyone's guess. Sometimes, national Olympic committees hold ceremonies in conjunction with big events in their countries to give the Olympians a feel of what it might have been like to receive those medals at the games themselves. Other times, the medals are handed out at international championships. Figure skating's next world championships are set for March 18-24 in Montreal.
Regardless, pretty much everyone agrees that athletes who get their medals months or years after the contest have been cheated out of not just their moment, but also any post-Olympics benefit, both financial and emotional, that comes from bringing home that medal in the days after they've won it.
“I think two years is too long for this decision to be made, and we may never know why it has taken this long,” said U.S. ice dancer Evan Bates, who was on the team in Beijing, and who partnered with Madison Chock for their fifth U.S. title over the weekend. "We’re just looking forward to getting some closure after a long waiting period.”
In many circles, Valieva was seen as the most helpless victim. She was 15 when the positive test was discovered, and evidence pointed to people in her entourage who were giving her the drug trimetazidine, which can be administered to prevent angina attacks but is also known to increase blood flow efficiency and improve endurance.
Days after her case exploded, she skated in an error-filled free skate in the individual event and the reaction of her coach — “Why did you stop fighting? Explain it to me, why?” — was cringeworthy. Even IOC president Thomas Bach weighed in, saying her entourage showed "a tremendous coldness, it was chilling to see this.”
Russia invaded Ukraine less than a week after the Olympics ended, and figure skating's international federation has since banned Russian skaters from its events. Valieva, who turns 18 in April, has skated in Russian national competitions, but is no longer considered the invincible force she was heading into Beijing.
It's not unheard of for world-class skaters to fall off the radar, then return to their former glory, though clearly there is more involved in Valieva's future — for instance, Russia's standing in international sports — than simply her ability and desire to return.
RUSSIA AND THE OLYMPICS
Technically, Valieva's case was not part of the doping scandal that has prevented Russia from competing under its own flag at the Olympics since 2016. In 2022, Valieva was technically competing as a member of the “ROC” — short for Russian Olympic Committee, not for Russia itself — because of sanctions stemming from the state-sponsored doping scandal designed to help Russians win more medals at their home Olympics in Sochi in 2014.
But what the Valieva case exposed was the fact that, even 10 years after Sochi, things are still not back to "normal” in Russia.
The country's anti-doping agency remains noncompliant with World Anti-Doping Agency rules. And the fact that the CAS case was an appeal of a Russian anti-doping tribunal decision that would've awarded the gold medal to Valieva is a sign that Russia still isn't completely on the same page with international regulators.
The war in Ukraine has only added to the confusion.
Some sports, such as track, aren't allowing Russians to compete at this year's Paris Olympics under any circumstances. Others will allow them in, but only as “Individual Neutral Athletes” because of the war — a status not unlike what existed from 2016-22 because of the doping.
AP Sports Writers Dave Skretta in Kansas City and Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.
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