Valieva’s future to be decided in closed-door boardroom, not ice rink

Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee during training in Beijing on Saturday

BEIJING (Reuters) — Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva’s Winter Olympics will be decided not on the ice rink but by a group of women and men at a boardroom table in a five-star Beijing hotel a short drive from the stadium where she thrilled the world this week.

The 15-year-old prodigy became the first woman to land a quadruple jump at the Olympics on Monday, winning a team figure skating gold with the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

But the International Testing Agency (ITA) said on Friday she had tested positive for a banned heart drug, rocking the Games and renewing focus on past Russian doping violations.

With Valieva due to compete again on Tuesday in the single event, the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s (CAS) six-member panel is under pressure to hold its closed-door hearings – on the second floor of the Continental Grand Hotel – and rule before then.

CAS has not yet begun its deliberations, but expects to hear the case between Saturday and Sunday evening, the court’s secretary-general Matthieu Reeb told Reuters.

Reeb said procedural directions would be issued later on Saturday, that the panel would consist of three judges and most of the evidence would be presented via video evidence not in-person.

If sent home, Valieva would be one of the youngest athletes ever removed from the Olympics for doping.

Her urine sample, showing presence of Trimetazidine, was collected on Dec. 25 last year. But the results were only reported to official bodies on Tuesday, the day after her dazzling performance in the Capital Indoor stadium to the stirring sound of Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero”.

An automatic provisional suspension, imposed after any positive test, was lifted by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency on Wednesday. But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have filed appeals to CAS to reinstate it, sport’s highest court said.

‘In Memoriam’?

CAS has set up two temporary offices in Beijing – one for legal disputes and one for doping issues – to provide rapid resolution services during the Games.

It said on Saturday it would be the legal disputes office that would handle the case rather than the anti-doping unit.

American lawyer Michael Lenard is president of that office with Slovenian former skater and lawyer Tjasa Andree-Prosenc and Swiss Corinne Schmidhauser as co-presidents.

The arbitrators will be chosen from a pool that includes China’s Xianyue Bai, Australian Annabelle Bennett, American Jeffrey Benz, Slovenian judge Vesna Bergant Rakocevic, Maria Gwynn from Paraguay, as well as Dane Lars Hilliger, Italy’s Fabio Iudica and France’s Jingzhou Tao and Alain Zahlan de Cayetti, France

It is not the first time CAS has had a big part to play at the Olympics, with doping a dark part of sport for decades now.

Russian athletes are competing as ROC athletes — without a national flag and without their anthem at medal ceremonies – for the third Games in a row as a result of sanctions over a state-backed doping system.

Their young star, Valieva, will now nervously await the CAS ruling, hoping the music used en route to gold — Kirill Richter’s “In Memoriam” — does not prove prophetic of her Olympic dreams in China.