BEIJING, China — Kamila Valieva was cleared to skate in the women's singles figure skating event at the 2022 Winter Olympics, despite her positive doping test from Dec. 25 that came to light in the middle of the Games, after she had already helped the Russian Olympic Committee to a first-place finish in the figure skating team event.
The decision to allow her to skate was a controversial one, with immediate reactions from Olympic officials, fellow skaters and other prominent voices in the sport.
As expected coming into the Olympics, Valieva was the skater to beat when she took the ice, leading by almost two points after the Feb. 15 short program.
In the Feb. 17 free skate, however, the 15-year-old began to unravel with a handful of technical issues in her performance, including two falls.
Given the doping allegations that Valieva faces, this was anything but a typical Olympic figure skating competition. A variety of circumstances and questions remain to be addressed and answered.
Will a medal ceremony be held for the women's singles event at these Olympics?
The International Olympic Committee announced prior to the women's singles event that if Valieva were to finish in the top three there would be no post-event flower ceremony, nor would they hold a medal ceremony for the event during the 2022 Winter Olympics.
With Valieva's mistakes in her "Bolero" free skate, she ultimately placed fourth, clearing way for the in-event flower ceremony to happen and medalists Anna Shcherbakova (gold, ROC), Aleksandra Trusova (silver, ROC) and Kaori Sakamoto (bronze, JPN) to be celebrated at the Capital Indoor Stadium.
Their medal ceremony is expected to be held the following night (Feb. 18) in the medals plaza adjacent to the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing.
Will women's singles figure skating results change from the Olympics?
If Valieva does end up serving a suspension and her results from the 2022 Winter Games are voided, every skater that followed her in the results (fifth through 30th) would move up one position.
Wakaba Higuchi of Japan would go from fifth to fourth. Meanwhile, the three U.S. women would be granted the following results: Alysa Liu (sixth), Mariah Bell (ninth), Karen Chen (15th).
When will figure skating team event Olympic medals be awarded?
The figure skating team event medals are likely to remain in limbo until Valieva's doping case is fully adjudicated.
The medal ceremony for the team event was scheduled for Feb. 8 in Beijing, but was postponed by the IOC after the World Anti-Doping Agency lab in Stockholm reported Valieva's positive test -- which came from a sample taken on Dec. 25 -- earlier the same day.
Valieva competed in the team event for ROC on Feb. 6 and 7 in Beijing, prior to the revelation of her positive drug test, receiving the top score from the judges in both the women's short program and women's free skate. The ROC finished in first place in the event, followed by the United States in second, Japan in third and Canada in fourth.
It's unknown whether officials might ultimately deny medals to Valieva and/or the entire ROC team based on the adjudication of Valieva's case.
The IOC has said that once Valieva's case has concluded it will work with the appropriate National Olympic Committees and athletes to organize "dignified medal ceremonies."
What are the next steps in Kamila Valieva's doping case?
Valieva was provisionally suspended by the Russian Anti-Doping Association on Feb. 8 based on the reporting of her positive test, but RUSADA quickly overturned the suspension the next day. The IOC, WADA and International Skating Union all promptly appealed the rescinding of that suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with CAS declining to enforce the provisional suspension, thus clearing the way for Valieva to continue to skate in Beijing in the women's singles event.
The entirety of Valieva's case has not yet been adjudicated though. The CAS ruling applied only to the question of Valieva's immediate eligibility to continue skating at the 2022 Winter Olympics, not on the broader question of whether Valieva did indeed violate the World Anti-Doping Code.
More hearings are likely to follow after the Olympics conclude as the IOC fully investigates the case.
Valieva will have the option to have her B-sample from Dec. 25 analyzed to see whether it differs from or confirms the test results of her A-sample, which found the presence of the banned substance trimetazidine, a heart medication common for patients with angina (chronic chest pain), but which can used in sport to potentially boost endurance by allowing athletes to perform at a lower heart rate for longer periods of time.
Questions are likely to be investigated further as to what exactly Valieva took, whether it was ingested intentionally, and for what purpose. In addition to trimetazidine, Valieva's test results reportedly found two other heart medications in her system, which, while not banned substances, raise further questions of the intent of the combination of medications, per U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart.
“It is heartbreaking in so many ways, but it appears the use of this cocktail of substances is aimed at increasing endurance, promoting greater efficiency in oxygen use and reducing fatigue and tiredness," Tygart told NBC Olympics. "It is hard to believe a young athlete, like her, has the resources or wherewithal to obtain these on her own and the failure of the adults around her, the Russian and IOC system have cast a dark cloud over her performances and, in the process, have tragically robbed clean athletes of their Olympic dreams.”
The ROC coaches and support staff surrounding Valieva are also likely to come into question as part of further investigations, in regard to what role they played, if any, in a banned substance appearing in Valieva's system.
Will there be a change to the minimum age for Olympic figure skaters?
Proposals to raise the minimum age have been unsuccessfully raised in years past. The fallout of Valieva's positive test seems set to spawn a fresh round of debate on the subject.
One of the core elements of Valieva's doping case is the 15-year-old's age and status as a minor. The CAS ruling cited Valieva's age and resulting "Protected Person" status under WADA code as the top reason in its report on why the court elected not to reimpose her suspension.
In a report for NBC Olympics, Philip Hersh confirmed a Russian TV report that the ISU plans to introduce a proposal that would gradually raise the minimum age for Olympic-level, senior competition for figure skaters from 15 to 17. That proposal would reportedly be put on the agenda of the ISU congress in June. The Norwegian Skating Association reportedly plans to make a similar proposal.
Only two of the eight women’s Olympic champions from 1994 through 2022 have been over 17. Two were 15, two 16 and two 17.
Two of those teenagers, Oksana Baiul of Ukraine (1994) and Tara Lipinski of the United States (1998), did not compete again after winning the Olympics; another, American Sarah Hughes (2002), competed just one more year.
Only the 17-year-old 2014 champion, Adelina Sotnikova, and the 15-year-old 2018 champion Alina Zagitova, both Russians, lasted two more seasons.
Will Kamila Valieva compete again?
Valieva's competitive future in figure skating figures to be at least partially tied to the outcome of her doping case.
In the immediate future, the 2022 World Figure Skating Championships are scheduled next month, from March 21-27. The Figure Skating Federation from Russia (FSR at this event while Russia is still ineligible to compete at top-level events) has yet to name its team. Valieva's eligibility to skate in that event could come under fresh scrutiny if her case has not yet been fully adjudicated by then.