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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

IOC official suggests Valieva may have ingested a banned drug by mistake

Kamila Valieva competing last week.

By Andrew Keh

The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday defended its decision to withhold the awarding of medals in events involving a Russian figure skater at the center of doping questions, and one top official repeated one of her lawyer’s claims that she had ingested the banned drug by mistake.

A panel of arbitrators on Monday cleared the skater, Kamila Valieva, 15, to compete in the women’s singles event on Tuesday, even though Valieva had failed a test for a banned heart medication in December. In response, the IOC announced on Monday that, until investigation into her case is complete, there would be no medal ceremony in the event if Valieva, the clear favorite, finished among the top three.

Valieva won the short program on Tuesday.

In defending herself, Valieva has suggested that the positive result stemmed from a case of contamination that “happened with a product her grandfather was taking,” Denis Oswald, an IOC executive board member from Switzerland, told The Associated Press and other media outlets. One of her lawyers reportedly made the claim during her hearing on Sunday.

Peppered with questions about the IOC’s decision not to award medals in events in which Valieva takes part, Oswald also conveyed a message that was clear, if potentially unsatisfactory to critics: that while the IOC sympathizes with the other athletes who would get no podium ceremony, it does not yet know all the details of the case.

“You must understand, it would be very difficult to allocate medals based on a situation that is not final, because there is a fair chance you would not give the right medal to the right team,” Oswald said.

Regarding other competitors who might lose the privilege of a proper medal ceremony, he said: “The damage for them is not irreparable, even if we fully understand that it’s not exactly the same if you get your medal at the Games or later on.”

Valieva helped Russia win the gold medal in the team event last week, shortly before Russian authorities were informed of the positive test result. She was cleared to continue competing at these Games by a panel of arbitrators from the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Monday because, it said, she was a minor and was not responsible for the slow delivery of the result by a laboratory in Sweden that had processed it.

The ruling also cited what it called the potential for “irreparable harm” if Valieva were barred from competition.

The question of her eligibility will be determined in the months after the Games, at which point her results from these Olympics could be disqualified.

Oswald also was asked about the growing chorus of critics who contend that the organization was too soft on Russia, which was found to have engaged in a large-scale, state-sponsored doping scheme during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Many athletes also have argued that the inclusion of Valieva in the event this week undermined the perception of clean competition at the Games.

“It’s surprising that people from all over the world have opinions and comments on a case where we ourselves don’t have the details,” he said. “It’s very easy to criticize without knowing the situation. We have tried to do our best to apply the principles of justice, due process, respect of the law. It’s part of our job to be criticized. That’s quite normal nowadays. But we can’t do more than we have done.”

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