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Russian Skaters Stripped of Olympic Gold, Setting Up New Fight for Medals

In the Beijing 2022 team event, the United States won gold thanks to a judgement to overturn Kamila Valieva’s disqualification, but Canada was excluded from the podium.

International Skating Controversy at Beijing Olympics Resolved After Two Years

On Tuesday, the International Skating Authority demanded an end to the two-year-old controversy by revising disputed results of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in figure skating. However, by snatching victory from Russia, awarding the United States a gold medal and Canada a silver, the competition might have set the stage for yet another protracted legal battle.

Just a day after imposing a four-year ban on Russian star Kamila Valieva for doping, the Skating Authority, revised the outcome following amendments by the International Skating Union. Declaring 15-year-old Valieva, who was instrumental in securing Russia’s clear win, ineligible immediately impacted the Olympic team standings: the U.S. gained gold, Japan silver, while surprisingly, Russia is left with a claim for bronze.

Within hours, the Russian Olympic Committee, already displeased with Valieva’s ban, announced its intention to appeal any result that deprived them of team medals. Canadian officials also hinted at an appeal against the swift decision. The skating authorities and the International Olympic Committee, who had decided not to award medals in the team competition until the resolution of Valieva’s doping case, were astonished at how they could organize a “meaningful Olympic medal ceremony” for such a contentious dispute that remained unresolved.

Despite the presence of a doping offender, allowing Russia to earn medals raises more questions about the influence of Russia on top sports bodies. It sheds light on the failure of global sports to enforce anti-doping rules and discipline athletes and nations promptly.

Critics have long accused the I.O.C. of being soft on Russia, allowing Russian athletes and teams to participate in events like the Olympics. Others noted that Russia’s anti-doping agency was itself suspended when it conducted Valieva’s positive test.

Travis Tygart, CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, commented, “It’s unimaginable that a young woman, Valieva, is thrown under the bus with a four-year approval, but Russia is allowed to claim Olympic glory with bronze.” He added, “It reeks of political bias, and much needs to be understood because athletes deserve answers.” Now, instead of resolving the two-year-old scandal straightforwardly, figure skating – and the Olympic movement – faces the possibility of new questions about doping and its consequences, with new appeals to be dealt with in sports court, taking months or even years to resolve.

On Tuesday, while revising the results, the Skating Federation stated that Valieva had been declared ineligible, and, after presenting a positive sample to drug testers on Christmas Day 2021, all her scores and results posted in competitions held until her competition in the Olympics were disqualified. – Some weeks after the Beijing Olympics and the start of the Games, a team event took place.

Her ineligibility caused the United States to drop to first place, Japan to second place, and Russia to third place. However, in a curious aspect of mathematics, I.S.U. adjusted only the sum of the last scores for each team, not reallocating the 20 points left by Valieva to other female competitors. Without the two additional points, it was considered that Russia should have performed better in short and long programs for women, and Canada remained in fourth place, just one point behind Russia’s adjusted total.

The Canadian Skating Federation said it was “extremely disappointed” and would consider all options to appeal against this decision. It referred to a provision buried deep in the rules of skating that says, “Competitors who were ranked below an ineligible competitor at the start should move up in their placement accordingly.”

Amidst this, the Russian Olympic Committee said it was already preparing paperwork to appeal against any retractions of team medals. In a statement on Monday, it expressed doubts about the “impartiality and fairness” that led to Valieva’s ban and hinted at using the skating rulebook, like Canada, to strengthen its position. According to those rules, Russia argued, “The results of the team competitions in the 2022 Winter Olympics are not subject to review based on the outcome of the individual case of Kamila Valieva, and our team’s awards won in Beijing cannot be legally disputed.”

Tuesday’s announcement deprived Valieva of any results achieved during her ban period, which included not only team competition but also her fourth-place finish in individual competition in Beijing and her victory in the 2022 European Championship.

Her four-year ban will expire in December 2025, just in time for her to compete in the next Olympics in Italy in February 2026.

Kremlin’s Response and Disapproval of Ban

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry S. Peskov mocked Valieva’s ban on Monday, terming it a “political decision.” On Tuesday, he extended his criticism, suggesting that any result tarnishing Russia’s gold in the Olympics is unacceptable.

He stated, “We do not agree with these decisions, neither from the court nor from the federation.” “We do not accept them.”

He added, “Upon returning from the Olympics in China, these athletes were honored as Olympic champions. We believe that for us, they will always remain Olympic champions, whatever decisions are made in this regard, even inappropriate ones.”

FILE PHOTO: 2022 Beijing Olympics – Figure Skating – Women Single Skating – Free Skating – Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing, China – February 17, 2022. Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee in action. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel/File Photo

International Skating Union’s Response and Potential Collaboration with IOC

The International Skating Union (I.S.U.) announced on Tuesday that it would coordinate with the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) on the next steps to implement its decision. This primarily involves awarding delayed medals to athletes who earned them in team competitions.

The medals themselves remain in limbo. At the time, it was unclear who won what, with the I.O.C. seizing control of the team gold, silver, and bronze in Beijing, an unprecedented move in Olympic history where no medals were awarded in a complete event.

United States Olympic officials stated on Tuesday that they would exert pressure to secure their team’s gold medals, regardless of what unfolds with Russia or Canada, without waiting for any appeal. Sarah Hirshland, CEO of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said, “There is no reason for any delay.” “Our focus is on getting those medals to Team USA.”



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