BEIJING (AP) — Kamila Valieva is aiming for the top step of a podium she may never see when the Russian figure skating star, now at the center of the latest Olympic doping scandalconcludes its competition Thursday night with the women’s freestyle at the Beijing Games.
The International Olympic Committee has already said there will be no flower ceremony if Valieva places in the top three, creating an awkward feeling of openness at the end of the event. There will also be no medal ceremony for the figure skaters as the IOC fears Valieva will one day be stripped of hers.
“There will be an asterisk against the results as they will obviously be preliminary pending investigation,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “Would we prefer that all of this didn’t happen?” Absoutely.”
Valieva, 15, tested positive for a banned heart medication during the Russian championships in December. But the result was only announced last week, shortly after she helped win a team gold medal that is now also in doubt.
She was cleared to compete earlier this week by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which notably ruled that she had protected status as a minor and that she would suffer ‘irreparable harm’ if she was not allowed to compete. happen. But the court did not rule on the full extent of the case, leaving that for further investigation later..
The court’s decision cast a polarizing shadow on one of the flagship events of the Winter Games.
“Do I feel sorry for her? I do not think so. I wouldn’t say that,” said Kaori Sakamoto of Japan, who is in third place after her short program. “I focus on the competition. Right now, I’m actually trying not to think about things like that. Of course, there were times when I was like, ‘What’s going to happen? What is happening?'”
Valieva claimed that the drug triggering her positive, trimetazidine, entered her system by accident. But the World Anti-Doping Agency filed a brief stating two other substances she admitted to taking, L-carnitine and Hypoxen – although both legal – undermine the argument that a banned substance could have been ingested by mistake.
Hypoxene is used to increase blood flow to the heart, and L-carnitine is an oxygen-boosting performance enhancer that is prohibited if injected above certain thresholds. When these substances are combined with trimetazidinesaid Travis Tygart, CEO of US Anti-Doping, it’s “an indication that something more serious is going on.”
“You use all of that to increase performance,” Tygart said. “It totally undermines the credibility” of Valieva’s defense.
Meanwhile, IOC President Thomas Bach has donated Olympic torches American figure skaters who won team silver medals as a gift pending resolution of the doping case, The Associated Press learned Wednesday night.
IOC officials did not respond to requests for comment on Bach’s meeting with the team.
“It’s definitely disappointing,” said Karen Chen, who competed in the team event and entered Thursday night in 13th place after her short program. “I was really looking forward to being on the podium with my teammates and sharing this moment, and I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling that. So definitely, definitely disappointing.
As the doping case continues to unfold around her, Valieva has tried to go about her business as usual, attending every training session on her schedule. And although she appeared calm and collected during a rehearsal of her short program, the tension finally seemed to get to her when she skated off the ice and broke down in tears.
Although her performance, which included a shaky triple axel, left her in first place with nearly two points.
Valieva declined to speak to reporters after the short program, although she is required to attend a press conference if she finishes in the top three on Thursday night. In her only public comments so far, Valieva told Russian state broadcaster Channel One on Monday night that “these days have been very difficult for me. I’m happy but I’m emotionally tired.
Valieva plans to go big in her free skating, set to “Bolero” by early 20th-century French composer Maurice Ravel. The leader of the Russian team’s “Quad Squad” attempts three of the four-revolution jumps: a quad salchow on his first jump pass, a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination and a quadruple toe loop-triple salchow combination.
Valieva’s program has the highest base value – hands down – from anyone in the field, meaning she would have to miss several jumps and have an unusually poor performance to land anywhere but first place.
Her closest pursuer, teammate and world champion Anna Shcherbakova, plans to open with a quad flip, while Alexandra Trusova has planned an ambitious five quads in her free skate as she tries to overtake third-placed Sakamoto and give the Russians the first sweep of the women’s figure skating event in Olympic history.
“If I skate cleanly, I have a chance of getting Olympic gold,” Trusova said. “If no, then no. My goal is to skate cleanly.
AP national writer Eddie Pells in Zhangjiakou, China, and AP sportswriters James Ellingworth and Graham Dunbar in Beijing contributed to this report.
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