Russian skater Kamila Valieva slapped with four-year ban
Russian skater Kamila Valieva slapped with four-year ban by sport's highest court CAS for failed doping test. AFP

Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva received a four-year ban from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Monday for failing a doping test prior to the 2022 Winter Olympics.

A Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) investigation had found the teenager bore "no fault or negligence" for a failed test before the 2022 Winter Olympics, where she won team gold aged 15.

But on Monday, CAS upheld an appeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

"A period of four years ineligibility is imposed on Ms Valieva," CAS said. "All competitive results of Ms Valieva from 25 December 2021 are disqualified, with all the resulting consequences."

WADA welcomed the ban but took aim at those who had doped Valieva, now 17.

"The doping of children is unforgivable," WADA said in a statement, urging "governments to consider passing legislation -- as some have done already -- making the doping of minors a criminal offense".

By contrast, the Kremlin slammed what it called a "politicised" decision.

"Of course, we don't agree with it... From my point of view, of course, it's politicised," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies.

Russia's Olympic Committee (ROC) said the decision proved that "war has been declared on Russian sport and, as we see, all methods are good".

Valieva's positive test raised questions not just about her guilt but how she was treated as a minor, the way the test was conducted and the value of the drug involved for enhancing performance.

In Beijing in February 2022, Valieva became the first female skater to land a quadruple jump in Olympic competition, helping Russia secure gold in the team event.

The next day, she was told she had tested positive before the Games for trimetazidine, a drug used to treat angina but banned for athletes.

With CAS's ruling, the podium in the team event should now result in the United States being awarded gold, Japan silver and Canada bronze.

United States officials welcomed the CAS decision as a victory for clean athletes.

"Today is a day we have been eagerly awaiting for two years, as it is a significant win not only for Team USA athletes but also for athletes worldwide who practice fair play and advocate for clean sport," United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) chief executive Sarah Hirshland said.

"We now anticipate the day when we can wholeheartedly celebrate these athletes, along with their peers from around the world. Their moment is approaching, and when it arrives, it will serve as a testament to the justice and recognition they truly deserve."

The United States Anti-Doping Agency meanwhile welcomed the ruling but said justice had been "denied" by the two years it had taken to resolve the case.

"While any sense of true justice has been denied by the unbelievable and unnecessary delay in this case, we are incredibly pleased for clean athletes that this sad saga has finally come to an end and hope they can find joy and satisfaction in the fact that their long wait for justice is over," USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said.

"At the same time, our hearts hurt for yet another Russian athlete who the system has failed."

Under the pressure of suspicion and attention, Valieva cracked in the individual event in Beijing, stumbling four times in the free skate and finishing in tears as she tumbled from first to fourth.

At the end of the year, RUSADA ruled that Valieva bore "no fault or negligence" for the positive test.

From the start, the case has presented a dilemma. Valieva's age should have guaranteed her confidentiality under WADA rules for "protected persons" younger than 16.

The ISU is raising the lower age limit for its senior category from 15 to 17 from this year, citing the "physical, mental and emotional health" of competitors.

RUSADA tested the skater on December 25, 2021, as she won the Russian championships.

They sent the sample to the WADA-accredited laboratory in Stockholm. The lab found a minute concentration of trimetazidine but, delayed by the Covid pandemic, the result was not delivered until the middle of the Olympics.

After being cleared by RUSADA, Valieva returned to competition, taking second place in the Russian championships at the end of 2022.

Last November, she won the Russian Grand Prix in spite of falling twice in the free skate, and could only finish third in the 2023 national championships.

In her defence, Valieva blamed "contamination by cutlery" shared with her grandfather, who was treated with trimetazidine after receiving an artificial heart, and who drove her to training every day.

In 2018, sports authorities accepted two cases of accidental trimetazidine contamination.

CAS accepted that American swimmer Madisyn Cox had consumed the drug in a multivitamin.

The court also accepted that contamination led to Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva's positive test at the Pyeongchang Olympics, but did not reinstate her result at the Games.

Doubt surrounds the value of trimetazidine due in particular to its "numerous side effects" ranging from "gait disorders" to "hallucinations".