Winter Olympics: Team USA Will Receive Torches Instead Of Medals Until Figure Skating Scandal Resolves

by Josh Lanier

American women’s figure skaters who finished second in the team competition at the Beijing Olympics will have to wait on their silver medals. Officials will give them torches instead until they can sort out the doping scandal surrounding a Russian skater.

IOC President Thomas Bach privately met with American skaters on Wednesday to offer this solution, the Associated Press reported. Olympics officials won’t allow Kamila Valieva to participate in any medal ceremony after she tested positive for a banned substance. It’s on hold until the committee investigates and resolves her case.

“In the interest of fairness to all athletes and the (nations) concerned, it would not be appropriate to hold the medal ceremony for the figure skating team event during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022,” the IOC said in a statement, “as it would include an athlete who on the one hand has a positive A-sample, but whose violation of the anti-doping rules has not yet been established on the other hand.”

The Russians won gold and Japan earned bronze in the team event. If the IOC bans Valieva, the Americans will take home the gold, and Canada will ascend to bronze.

Valieva, 15, tested positive for the banned heart medication trimetazidine in December. But the Court of Arbitration for Sports allowed her to compete in the Beijing Games because she’s a minor. Though, that decision remains controversial. The committee banned American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson from competing in some events at the Tokyo Olympics last year after she tested positive for marijuana.

Valieva has tested negative for banned substances since arriving in Beijing.

Former Olympic Skater Calls Russians ‘Dirty Cheaters’

Kamila Valieva’s attorney claimed that the drug entered her system by mistake because her grandfather takes it. Doctors usually prescribe trimetazidine to help with heart problems, CBS Sports reported. Though, the Olympics bans it because it can give athletes an edge by increasing blood to the heart.

“There can be completely different ways how it got [into Valieva’s body],” her attorney reportedly said. “For example, [her] grandfather drank something from a glass, saliva got in, (and) this glass was somehow later used by the athlete.”

No other Russian figure skater at the Beijing Olympics has tested positive for a banned substance. Though, it’s hard to not consider Russia’s history of doping in the Olympics when considering Valieva. Russian athletes are serving a multi-year ban after running a state-sponsored doping system during the Sochi Games in 2014. They are competing as the Russian Olympic Committee and not under their country’s flag.

“Dirty cheaters, and we are accommodating them,” said former U.S. figure skater Addam Rippon of Valieva competing. “I don’t know how the Olympics recovers from this.”

U.S. Olympics CEO Sarah Hirshland said the decision to postpone the medal ceremony sends a bad message. She said this is another “another chapter” in the history of Russian doping.

“This appears to be another chapter in the systematic and pervasive disregard for clean sport by Russia,” Hirshland said in a statement. “We know this case is not yet closed, and we call on everyone in the Olympic Movement to continue to fight for clean sport on behalf of athletes around the world.”