The International Olympic Committee president criticized Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva’s entourage for their “tremendous coldness” toward the 15-year-old skater after her mistake-filled free skate at the Beijing Olympics.
Valieva, who has been at the centre of a controversy over a positive doping test, finished fourth overall on Thursday despite placing first in the women’s short program earlier in the week. Her fourth-place finish allowed the International Olympic Committee to avoid what could have been one of the most awkward moments in the history of the Games.
The heavily favoured Russian teen fell twice and had two other big mistakes in her free skate — looking extremely dejected throughout her skate. At one point put her face in her hands after her program. Later she was seen sobbing in the kiss-and-cry area beside her entourage. Her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, was also seen on camera telling a visibly upset Valieva “Why did you let it go? Why did you stop fighting?”
IOC president Thomas Bach said on Friday that it was “chilling” to see on television, without naming Tutberidze.
“You could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance,” he said.
Tutberidze and other members of Valieva’s entourage will be investigated over the teenager’s positive test for a heart medication ahead of the Olympics.
Valieva was permitted to skate despite failing a doping test weeks before the Beijing Games. She was the leader after the short program but faltered badly in the free skate and teammate Anna Shcherbakova won the gold medal after a near-flawless program. Russian teammate Alexandra Trusova won the silver and Kaori Sakamoto of Japan took the bronze.
The 15-year-old Valieva put a jolt into the Beijing Games when she landed the first quadruple jumps by a woman at the Olympics and helped the Russians win the gold medal in the team event last week.
However, shortly after the team event, it was announced that Valieva tested positive for a banned heart medication at the Russian championships in December.
She was cleared to compete earlier this week by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled among other things that she had protected status as a minor and would suffer “irreparable harm” if she was not allowed to perform. The court did not rule on the full scope of the case, leaving that to a more comprehensive investigation later.
The IOC then indicated that because Valieva is at the center of a doping scandal that is still under investigation, a medal ceremony not be held if she finished in the top three.
Bach said the pressure on Valieva was “beyond my imagination.”
Meanwhile, the judges who Valieva compete despite a positive test for a banned substance blamed anti-doping officials for a “failure to function effectively.”
The Court of Arbitration for Sport, in a newly published 41-page document explaining their decision, cited an “untenable delay” at the testing laboratory in Sweden.
It meant Valieva’s positive test for a heart medication was only revealed during the Olympics despite her urine sample arriving in Stockholm on Dec. 29. The lab’s staffing was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her lawyers suggested she was contaminated because her grandfather uses the banned heart medication she tested positive for.