Three days after the team figure skating event at 2022 Winter Olympics concluded, the winners are still in doubt. With each new detail that emerges, the plot continues to thicken.
ESPN previously reported the medal ceremony for the event had been pulled on Tuesday night amid questions about a positive drug test. International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said medal-winning athletes were involved in the investigation.
The Russian team won gold in the event, with the United States earning silver and Japan earning bronze. But those results are now in question.
On Wednesday, the New York Post added new information: The outlet reported Russian media had identified 15-year-old Russian skater Kamila Valieva as the athlete who returned a positive drug test.
Valieva’s age adds a whole new layer to the situation. According to the Post, athletes under the age of 16 are considered “protected persons” by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Under WADA rules, athletes in this category are not to be held responsible for substances found in their doping samples, the Daily Beast reported.
In addition, “protected persons” are not supposed to be named as a suspect in the case of a failed drug test, which could explain why the IOC has not publicly identified Valieva, despite multiple reports from Russian media outlets.
The Post reported Russian media identified the substance found in the drug test as trimetazidine and said the drug test was taken two months ago. The drug is typically used to treat chest pain, and it is not approved in the United States.
Trimetazidine was added to the WADA’s banned substance list in 2014, the Post reported. Two Russian bobsledders were given an eight-month ban after testing positive for the substance in 2018.
Should Russia be stripped of its gold medal?
Since Valieva cannot be held responsible for the substance being found in her system, the criticism is likely to fall on Russian figure skating coach Eteri Tutberidze, the Beast reported.
According to a Feb. 4 article from Insider, Tutberidze is controversial for the methods she uses to spur her athletes on to success. Russian fans have coined the term “Eteri expiration date,” which refers to the idea that her athletes are typically forced to retire by age 17 because of injury from overtraining.
At the center of the controversy surrounding Tutberidze is her insistence on teaching girls the quadruple jump. Before she was embroiled in questions about a positive drug test, Valieva made history last week by becoming the first woman to land the quad jump on Olympic ice, the Post reported.
While many people praised Valieva and Tutberidze for making history, Russian choreographer Benoit Richaud told Insider it would come with a price.
“Eteri was smart in her approach: she was first to find a method to teach quad jumps to girls, and the method works, but only until age 17,” Benoit Richaud said. “What are skaters supposed to do then?”
Perhaps in a bit of foreshadowing, the same Insider article reported doping is “relatively rare among figure skaters” and that “[n]one of Tutberidze’s athletes [has] ever had an adverse test result.”
That has now changed in a big way, and an adverse test result is threatening the Russian team’s gold medal for team figure skating.
Conspiracy theories began circulating on social media after reports about the positive drug test emerged. One TikTok user suggested Tutberidze could have given Valieva the drugs because of her apparent obsession with winning at all costs.
While no official decisions or determinations have been made, it is clear that the Russian team’s gold medal is in serious question.