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Kamila Valieva’s olympic eligibility in jeopardy following drug test

Russia’s prodigy Valieva surrounded by positive drug test controversy

15-year-old Russian skating prodigy Kamila Valieva brought a gold medal to the Russian Olympic team on Monday Feb. 7, after being the first woman to land two quadruple jumps at the Olympics, according to The New York Times


Valieva won both of her skates in the team event, and nearly set a world record for points in the women’s short program on Sunday, finishing more than 15 points ahead of the next competitor.


“This is a fantastic feeling,” Valieva said, though she is trying to cope with the pressure of competing against so many adults in the Olympics at a young age.


However, this success and celebration was short-lived after confirmation of a positive drug test from a urine sample collected on Dec. 25 by the International Testing Agency (ITA). The prodigy tested positive for Trimetazidine (TMZ), a heart- and endurance-enhancing drug banned by the Olympics for athletes to use inside and outside competition. 


Due to past allegations and scandals involving doping, Russian officials responded by calling the case a “misunderstanding.” 


“Hold your head up, you’re a Russian,” said Dmitry Peskov, a Russian government spokesperson. “Go proudly and beat everyone.” 


Valieva is one of the youngest athletes to ever test positive. She is due to compete again on Tuesday for the individual’s event—however, her fate will be decided before then.


A six-member board pertaining to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) will confer on the second floor of the Continental Grand Hotel behind locked doors, according to Reuters. The Russian Anti-Doping Agency lifted an automatic provisional suspension placed on Valieva, which was imposed immediately after any positive test. 


The International Olympic Committee, the International Skating Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) plan to appeal to CAS reinstate it. CAS has two temporary offices in Beijing for legal disputes and drug-related issues to provide rapid resolutions to any problems that arise.


As Russia has a history with doping in the Olympics, Valieva and her Russian athlete counterparts are competing as the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC)—a team without a flag or national anthem—due to the country being sanctioned for a state-supported doping system.


TMZ is a drug used to treat angina, among other heart-related health conditions, and increases blood flow to the heart while also limiting rapid swings in blood pressure. It is not approved in the United States for medical use, but Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor, a medical toxicology physician at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital explained its usage. 


“If you’re in a highly exertional sport, where you’re using a lot of energy and you’re putting your heart under significant stress, it certainly could help your heart function better theoretically,” Johnson-Arbor said. 


It was categorized as a hormone and metabolic modulator when placed on WADA’s list of prohibited substances in 2014. That same year, Chinese Olympic gold medalist Sun Yang was suspended for testing positive for TMZ. Yang claimed that he had been prescribed the drug by doctors to ease chest pain.


Former head of WADA, Rob Koehler felt agencies should be held responsible. “There are three organizations to blame for Kamila Valieva’s positive test: the World Anti-Doping Agency, the International Olympic Committee and the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” Koehler said. 


Valieva’s case has made its rounds across the globe—with some athletes and fans speaking on the situation, her accountability and how it should be handled. 


“What they knowingly did to her, if true, cannot be surpassed in inhumanity and makes my athlete’s heart cry infinitely,” wrote German skater Katarina Witt in a social media post. “Kamila Valieva is a young girl and child prodigy, whose highly difficult performances and grace enchanted the whole world at only 15, a minor, depending on adults and she is not to blame here.”