IOC president Thomas Bach said Friday he was “very disturbed” by Russian skater Kamila Valieva’s performance in the Beijing Olympics final when she fell several times and seemed overwhelmed by the doping scandal that has engulfed her.
“I was very disturbed when I watched it on TV,” Bach said, adding 15-year-old Valieva was treated with “a tremendous coolness” by her coaches after the calamitous free skate routine which saw her finish fourth and miss out on a medal.
After a visibly upset Valieva finished her routine, her famously demanding coach Eteri Tutberidze repeatedly asked her teenage charge “why did you let it go?”
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Bach said: “When I saw how she was received by the closest entourage with such a tremendous coolness, it was chilling to see this.”
He told a news briefing that seeing Valieva’s Russian teammate Alexandra Trusova also highly agitated after her silver medal-winning routine confirmed his concerns about the entourage around the young skaters.
“I was pondering about whether you can be really so cold but when I saw and read today how Alexandra Trusova was being treated, I am afraid that this impression I had last night was not the wrong one.
“All of this does not give me much confidence in this close entourage of Kamila.”
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The 15-year-old was in the global spotlight after the Court of Arbitration for Sport controversially ruled that she could stay on at the Games despite failing a drugs test.
Her tender age also put the focus on the people around her and especially Eteri Tutberidze, who has been highly successful in developing a stable of world-class teenage Russian skaters but whose strict methods have been questioned.
The 47-year-old Tutberidze, dubbed the “Snow Queen”, was the first person to greet the visibly upset Valieva as she came off the ice, her hopes of gold or even a medal in tatters after falling several times in a calamitous free skate that saw her finish fourth.
Speaking to Eurosport, former Olympian Adam Rippon called for a ban on child participation in the Olympics in the wake of the Valieva drama.
“I think Kamila is a victim in this. But I also think every other girl in that event is a victim of Kamila,” Rippon said.
“It feels like a completely unfair situation. It feels like we’re making accommodations for somebody who didn’t follow the rules. That person is also unfortunately 15 years old. And that makes me think also, as a coach, how that skater got those medications.
“It makes me think that those adults around her completely failed her. It’s a 15-year-old girl. “It’s a shame that this is her Olympic experience.”
It comes after World Anti-Doping chief Witold Banka said people who dope children are “evil” and “killers of clean sport”.
“But speaking generally about the doping of children from my personal perspective and from WADA’s perspective is that it is evil and unforgivable,” he told Eurosport.
“I think that the people who are giving doping to children are killers of clean sport. So the doctors, coaches and other support personnel who are found to have provided performance enhancing drugs to minors should definitely be banned for life.
“Personally I also think you should be imprisoned. Some countries in the world already criminalise the doping of children… I think this is very strong but a very good solution.”
Valieva’s 17-year-old teammates Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, who are also coached by Tutberidze, won gold and silver respectively.
Shcherbakova had sympathy for Valieva, who had been the pre-Games favourite and could yet be punished for taking the banned substance trimetazidine, which boosts endurance.
“I saw Kamila’s performance and I really felt for her because from the first jump you could see that it was going badly,” said Shcherbakova.
Valieva had been the clear favourite going into the Games, but it emerged she had tested positive in December for trimetazidine, a heart medication that is banned for athletes because it can help increase endurance.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Monday ruled that she could carry on competing in the Chinese capital.
Dressed in black and red, Valieva looked focused as she powered onto the ice, cheered on by the crowd, as well as a large contingent of her teammates.
But she failed to land multiple jumps she had completed with ease when she performed the same “Bolero” program to help the Russians win the team event earlier in the Games.
She was awarded 141.93 for it — almost 40 points less than last week. Supported by her coaches and seemingly stunned, she sat down in the ‘kiss and cry’ area — where skaters wait to receive their scores — and sobbed.
She did not speak to media as she left the arena.