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Friday, December 2, 2022

In Light of Russia’s Delay, the Agency Has Referred the Valieva Case to the Highest Court in Sports

The World Anti-Doping Agency has taken control of the doping investigation into figure skating star Kamila Valieva, who competed at the Beijing Olympics, and has appealed the case directly to the highest court in the field of sports. This is a stunning demonstration of mistrust in the manner in which Russian officials are handling the doping investigation.

Because Valieva tested positive for an illegal cardiac medication in the weeks leading up to the 2022 Olympics, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which has its headquarters in Switzerland, will now decide the appropriate punishment for her, if any, and how severe it should be.

Valieva, who was just 15 years old at the time, had shot to the top of her sport in a matter of short months, and she arrived in Beijing as the overwhelming favourite to win the individual gold medal in women’s singles tennis. She managed to finish in fourth place despite the commotion caused by her positive test, and she was also the driving force behind Russia’s victory in the team competition.

Even though Olympic gold were on the line, the Russian anti-doping organisation known as Rusada had been working on Valieva’s doping case since February. However, no decision had been taken, and no information had been made public about the case’s progression.

In vain, the President of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Witold Banka, had cautioned the Russians to conclude Valieva’s case. On Tuesday, he made good on his vow to hurry the matter along in the legal process by forcing it to be processed faster.

In recent weeks, Rusada has said that it would not make any material related to the issue public, and that it will not even disclose when it will end its part of the investigation into the subject. This has caused an uproar among members of the Olympic community. When one considers Russia’s recent past, which was marked by pervasive doping, there is strong cause for people from other countries to be cautious. At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia was uncovered running a state-sponsored doping system, which is widely considered to be the most serious scandal in the whole history of the Olympic Games.

In the first round of Valieva’s antidoping case, Rusada was given the responsibility of conducting an investigation into the reasons why she had tested positive before making a decision about whether or not she was at fault and would be required to serve a doping penalty.

An member of the International Olympic Committee said to reporters at the Beijing Olympics that Valieva’s positive result may have been the consequence of contamination with the cardiac medicine that her grandpa was taking. It is not quite obvious whether or not this defence is being employed at this point in the case.

It is possible for the World Anti-Doping Agency, often known as WADA, to lodge an appeal against any decision that is made by Rusada (so, too, could the International Skating Union or Valieva herself). However, in the absence of a judgement from Rusada, WADA authorities hastened the process, an action that was received with the shouts of many individuals involved in the battle against doping.

In a text message sent out on Tuesday, Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, said that the action by WADA was an indicator that the public cannot trust the Russians to handle the matter properly. Tygart is the head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

Although WADA has taken a bold step, this does not always guarantee that the issue will be resolved fast. Cases that are taken all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport might sit there for a decision for many months. However, once a decision has been reached, that decision is deemed to be final.

It is possible that Valieva, a kid who was previously recognised as one of the most gifted skaters in history, would not be punished at all and instead get simply a public warning, although it is also possible that she could be suspended from the sport for a number of years.

One recent event might make it more difficult for the Swiss court to reach a decision: A law that was proposed in the Russian parliament the week before to this one aims to overturn any judgements that the Court of Arbitration for Sport has made respecting Russian athletes.

If the bill is passed, Russia would be considered to be in breach of the World Anti-Doping Code, and as a result, it will most likely be barred from participating in any international events.

Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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