The brilliant 15-year-old skater Kamila Valieva, who has been at the epicentre of a doping and media storm at these Winter Olympics, will learn her fate from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) on Monday.
The Russian looked calm and focused at practice on Saturday, producing a flawless rendition of her short programme before coming off the ice to the soundtrack of Sia’s I’m Unstoppable.
However, Valieva’s dreams of competing in the individual event on Tuesday will come to an abrupt halt if Cas decides to uphold her doping suspension, which followed a positive test when trimetazidine was found in a urine sample collected by Russian authorities on Christmas Day.
It will meet via video conference on Sunday evening in Beijing before informing all parties of its decision on Monday afternoon.
On Saturday Valieva’s controversial coach, Eteri Tutberidze, insisted that her skater was clean but accepted that the situation was “very controversial and difficult”.
“I want to say that I am absolutely sure that Kamila is innocent and clean,” she said. “For us, this is not a theorem, but an axiom, it does not need to be proved. We are with our athletes, in trouble and in joy, to the end.”
The latest development follows an extraordinary week that began on Monday when Valieva captured the hearts of the world when she became the first female skater to perform a quad at the Games as the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) won a brilliant team gold.
A day later, however, the Russian anti-doping agency imposed a provisional suspension on Valieva when a Swedish laboratory reported a positive test before lifting it on Wednesday on appeal.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Skating Union (ISU) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have asked Cas to reinstate the suspension but Valieva has been able to train in the meantime.
On Saturday she made a point of hugging Tutberidze during practice on Saturday before walking through the mixed zone, accompanied by two burly minders. There was even a smile when she received shouts of encouragement from the Russian media.
However, in Russia the focus has intensified on Tutberidze, who is known for her uncompromising methods. After Valieva’s positive test for trimetazidine, a drug usually used to treat angina, the hashtag #позорТутберидзе – “shame on you, Tutberidze” – has been trending on Twitter.
But speaking to Russian station Channel One, Tutberidze directed her focus on why it had taken so long for Valieva’s positive test to emerge, given it was conducted on Christmas Day but only reported by a Swedish laboratory on 8 February. An outbreak of Covid at the lab in January is said to be the cause, however Tutberidze didn’t sound convinced.
“It is very unclear why an athlete with a dubious doping test on December 25 was admitted to the Olympic Games,” she said. “Either this is a fatal coincidence, or this is a very competent plan. I really hope that our leaders will not abandon us, defend our rights and prove our innocence.”
Earlier the IOC said it would welcome an anti-doping investigation into Valieva’s “entourage” after the 15-year-old Russian’s positive drugs test.
“Entourage has been overlooked in the past,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told a news conference on Saturday. “The IOC, as ever, would welcome investigation into the entourage in all cases where it’s relevant. In this case, as in all cases, we would welcome a strong line from the World Anti-Doping Agency on that.”
That approach was backed by double Olympic figure skating champion Katarina Witt, who said Valieva was not to blame for her positive drugs test.
“This scandal is a dramatic cut to her young and promising career and I sincerely hope that enough people are by her side and protect her so that she doesn’t break,” she said.
“Kamila has learned her quadruple jumps with infinite diligence and courage. No doping would have helped her to land these! And especially not with their artistic radiation! If anything, the adults responsible should be locked up for sports forever!”
However, Dick Pound, a long-standing member of the IOC, said that Russia’s latest doping infraction – which follows on from state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Sochi Games and manipulating testing data at a Moscow lab – suggested it was time Russia took an Olympic ‘timeout’.
“At a certain point if they are absolutely incorrigible you end up with the position of taking a country timeout,” said Pound. “We could say we can help you. You’ve got a problem. We can concentrate on it. Take a time out for one or two, or three Olympic Games until you get this under control.”