March 3rd, 2024

Russians to get Olympic bronze medals ahead of Canada skaters despite DQ

By The Associated Press on January 30, 2024.

FILE - Kamila Valieva, of the Russian Olympic Committee, competes in the women's team free skate program during the figure skating competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, in Beijing. Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva has been disqualified from the 2022 Beijing Olympics. The verdict from the Court of Arbitration for Sport comes almost two years after Valieva's doping case caused turmoil at the Beijing Games. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

GENEVA – Skate Canada said Tuesday it was “extremely disappointed” with the International Skating Union’s position on the awarding of medals from the figure skating team competition at the 2022 Beijing Olympics and will “consider all options to appeal.”

Despite the disqualification of Kamila Valieva in a doping case, Russia still stands to finish on the podium and get bronze medals ahead of fourth-place Canada. The Americans moved into the gold medal position and Japan has been upgraded to silver from bronze.

The demoted Russians dropped into third place, one point ahead of Canada even after being stripped of the points the then-15-year-old Valieva earned on the ice.

The International Skating Union published amended standings from the Beijing competition on Tuesday that removed Valieva’s maximum 10 points from each of her two events but did not add an extra point to the other teams below her.

“The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that in addition to a four-year ban from competition, the ban includes ‘the disqualification (of) all competitive results’ achieved by Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva since the positive test,” Skate Canada said in a statement.

“The ISU in its recent decision is not applying Rule 353, which states that ‘competitors having finished the competition and who initially placed lower than the disqualified competitor will move up accordingly in their placement.’

“Skate Canada strongly disagrees with the ISU’s position on this matter and will consider all options to appeal this decision.”

Skate Canada said it remained unclear about was how once Valieva was disqualified that Canada did not move up in the team event with points like other athletes did in individual events involving the Russian.

“And those points are a big difference because that would really make the difference right now between Canada being fourth or on the podium with a bronze medal,” Skate Canada said.

The proposal by the ISU is likely to provoke fresh legal action at CAS, which on Monday disqualified Valieva from the 2022 Olympics and other events, and banned her for four years until December 2025.

Russian Olympic officials said Tuesday they will appeal to regain the Olympic title, arguing that ISU rules mean sanctions against Valieva “cannot be the basis for reviewing the results of the team event.”

A second challenge at CAS could come from Canada.

“We are in discussion with Skate Canada as it explores its options for appeal,” the Canadian Olympic Committee said in a statement. “We recognize how difficult this process is for all the athletes and give our support to the Canadian skaters who made us so proud.

“This is a reminder of how harmful doping is and how crucial it is that we have a fair and safe sport system at home and around the world.”

The final decision on awarding medals is for the International Olympic Committee, which the ISU said was consulted before amending the results as the event organizer.

“The ISU is in close contact with the International Olympic Committee and the relevant ISU member federations in regard to the implementation of this decision,” the governing body said Tuesday.

The unprecedented turmoil of cancelling the medal ceremony at the Olympics has tested the rules of figure skating’s team event, which debuted at the 2014 Sochi Games. The Russians and Canadians traded gold and silver at the first two editions.

In the newly updated Beijing result, Canada still gets eight points out of 10 from the women’s short program and free skate sections, where its skater was Maddie Schizas. Japan still gets nine points each for originally finishing second to Valieva – Wakaba Higuchi in the short program and Kaori Sakamoto in the free skate.

Canada’s overall point total remained at 53 while the Russians’ tally dropped from 74 to 54 – enough for the bronze medals for everyone on the team except the disqualified Valieva.

Skate Canada praised the ruling to disqualify Valieva, which it said “underscores the significance of stringent anti-doping measures and the need for continuous vigilance in protecting the integrity of figure skating and all sports.”

Other Canadian team members in Beijing were Piper Gilles, Paul Poirier, Kirsten Moore-Towers, Michael Marinaro, Eric Radford, Vanessa James and Roman Sadovsky, a last-minute replacement for Keegan Messing.

A Skate Canada spokesperson said Canadian athletes were preparing to compete in China and would not be available for interviews on the developments.

A Canadian appeal to CAS in Lausanne, Switzerland, could extend the case for about another year.

That would stall a medal ceremony, which did not take place in Beijing because details of Valieva’s positive test for a banned heart medicine emerged only hours after she skated in the Russian team’s win.

Valieva tested positive for trimetazidine in a sample taken on Dec. 25, 2021, at the Russian national championships. Testing at a World Anti-Doping Agency-approved laboratory in Stockholm, Sweden, was delayed by staffing shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The unusual circumstances, and Valieva’s status as a minor, persuaded a separate CAS panel in Beijing to let her continue skating in the individual women’s event. Under extreme scrutiny, she finished fourth in an error-filled skate.

Valieva’s lawyers argued her positive test was because of contamination from medication they claimed her grandfather took. She also was taking two oxygen-boosting medications not banned in sports.

There was skepticism Valieva was a victim of an institutional culture in Russian sports of doping and lack of duty of care to young athletes. She had competed in Beijing under the team acronym “ROC” – the third straight Olympics the country’s athletes could not be called “Russia” because of ongoing fallout from the state-backed doping program at the 2014 Sochi Games at home.

In Russia on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Valieva and her five teammates from two years ago were still considered winners.

“Upon their return from China we honoured these athletes as Olympic champions,” Peskov said. “We are convinced that they will always remain Olympic champions to us, whatever decisions may be taken in that regard, even unfair ones.”

The IOC executive board will next meet from March 19-21 in Lausanne at the same time Canada hosts the figure skating world championships in Montreal.

The Olympic leadership is currently in South Korea for the Youth Winter Games and could address the skating medal issue there.

Valieva also lost the European title she won in January 2022, the ISU said. That title now goes to teammate Anna Shcherbakova, the Olympic champion two years ago.

AP sports writers James Ellingworth in Duesseldorf, Germany and Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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