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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Russian skaters stripped of Olympic gold but will still get the bronze


Kamila Valieva of Russia competes at the Olympics in Beijing on Feb. 7, 2022. Valieva led Russia to a team gold in Beijing before a months-old doping test emerged a day later. (Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)

By Tariq Panja and Andrew Das


International skating’s governing body earlier this week stripped Russia of its victory in the team figure skating event at the 2022 Beijing Olympics and awarded the gold medal to the United States. The move came one day after teenage Russian star Kamila Valieva, who had led her team to an apparent victory in the team event, was banned for four years for doping.


But rather than disqualify Russia’s team for including an ineligible skater, the governing body, the International Skating Union, adjusted the results of the competition in a way that awarded Russia the bronze medal instead.


In a statement Tuesday announcing the revised results, the skating union said it had disqualified Valieva and dismissed all the points she had accumulated. Those alterations, it said, put the United States in first in the team event, with Japan second and Russia third.


But in a curious bit of math, the ISU adjusted only the final team totals for each country when it reordered the standings. By not elevating the individual points collected by each team’s women’s singles skaters at the same time, it left Canada, which had been expected to rise to the bronze, in fourth place — a single point behind Russia.


Canada’s skating federation made no immediate public comment on the ISU decision. On Monday, the skating federation and the Canadian Olympic committee had both “applauded” the ruling to disqualify Valieva but did not directly call for the awarding of any medals to Canadian athletes.


The Russian Olympic committee, however, said it was already preparing paperwork to appeal any reallocation of the medals. In a previous statement Monday, it had cast doubt on the “objectivity and impartiality” of the Court of Arbitration for Sport while simultaneously emphasizing that the ISU had applied the rules correctly in awarding its team the bronze.


According to those rules, it said, “the results of team competitions at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games do not depend on the outcome of the consideration of the individual case of Kamila Valieva, and the awards won by our team in Beijing cannot be legally subject to review.”


The outcome has raised yet more questions about Russia’s influence over top sports bodies, including the International Olympic Committee, and highlighted the inability of global sports to enforce rules on doping and to punish athletes and countries in a timely manner. Critics have accused the IOC of taking a soft approach on Russia by issuing tough-sounding sanctions that still allowed Russian athletes and teams to take part in its marquee competitions. Russia’s anti-doping agency, for example, was itself banned when it was empowered to conduct the initial investigation into Valieva’s positive result.


The Valieva scandal has been allowed to drag out for almost two years and may yet still have twists; new appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport could set the stage for further legal action that could take more months to resolve.


In Tuesday’s announcement, Valieva was also stripped of all results achieved in the period in which she was ineligible, including not only the team event, which had been held at the Games for the first time, but also her fourth-place finish in the singles event and her victory in the 2022 European championships.


Her four-year ban will end in December 2025, just in time to allow her to compete in the next Olympics, in February 2026 in Italy.


A Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, on Monday ridiculed Valieva’s ban as a “politicized decision.” On Tuesday, he broadened his criticisms, suggesting that any result that took the gold away from Russia was unacceptable.


“We don’t agree with these decisions, neither by the court nor by the federation,” he said. “We don’t accept them.”


Peskov said Russia was willing to work with “all relevant structures” to defend the interests of its athletes.


He added: “Upon their return from China from the Olympics, these athletes were honored as Olympic champions; we are convinced that for us they will always remain Olympic champions. No matter what decisions were made in this regard, even unfair ones.”


The International Skating Union said it would coordinate with the International Olympic Committee on the next steps in implementing its decision — essentially the long-delayed awarding of the medals from the team competition in Beijing.


Unclear at the time about who had actually won them, the IOC had taken the unprecedented step of retaining possession of those golds, silvers and bronzes in Beijing. That was the first time in Olympic history that medals were not awarded in a completed event.

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