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Winter Olympics: Kamila Valieva’s entourage to be investigated by Wada

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Hosts: Beijing, China Dates: 4-20 February
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Scrutiny of those around Kamila Valieva has increased after the World Anti-Doping Agency said it will investigate the adults working with the teenager.

The 15-year-old Russian’s failed drugs test has cast a dark cloud over the Beijing Winter Olympics, with her age prompting questions over how a child became embroiled in suspected doping.

The figure skater was training in Beijing on Sunday, hours before a hearing to determine her Olympic fate.

She came here tipped for women’s gold.

The European champion, who failed a drugs test in December, will hear on Monday if she can compete in the individual women’s event in Beijing on Tuesday.

A lengthy hearing concluded on Sunday and a Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) panel will decide whether to suspend her.

“It was a long hearing. Now the panel will deliberate until tomorrow morning, the end of the morning,” said Matthieu Reeb, the general secretary of Cas.

“I cannot comment on anything at the hearing but I hope to give you a decision in a few hours.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had earlier called for global anti-doping body Wada to investigate her entourage.

Hours later, Wada said it would ask its independent intelligence and investigations department to look into the coaches, doctors and other adults surrounding her.

Remember ‘human side of story’

Kamila Valieva’s training has been watched by soft toys as well as global media

Valieva has continued to train amid the uncertainty and media attention, sometimes looking tearful.

The soft toys at the rink are a reminder of her tender age and the reason why this case has been even more shocking than other failed drugs tests.

Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi said it was important to remember the “human side of this story… to think about a person of 15 in this situation”.

“We need to treat this situation extremely carefully.”

Who could be part of Valieva’s ‘entourage’?

Daniil Gleikhengauz, Sergei Dudakov and Eteri Tutberidze
Among those who have been watching Valieva train are her three coaches (left to right) Daniil Gleikhengauz, Sergei Dudakov and Eteri Tutberidze

At times in practice Valieva has been embraced by one of her coaches Eteri Tutberidze, who is now under the spotlight as among those who could be considered part of the “entourage”.

In a brief interview with Russian state television, Tutberidze said she was certain the teenager was “clean and innocent”.

Also seen watching from the side of the rink in Beijing have been her other coaches Sergei Dudakov and Daniil Gleikhengauz, and also team doctor Filipp Shvetsky.

The coaches are all from the Sambo-70 club in Moscow, which has produced a series of successful young skaters in recent years.

They include Pyeongchang 2018 champion Alina Zagitova, who was 15 when she won gold and 2018 silver medallist Evgenia Medvedeva, who was 18. Meanwhile, Yulia Lipnitskaya, was 15 when she won team gold at Sochi 2014.

Russian skaters arrived in Beijing strongly fancied to sweep the podium in the women’s event – with 17-year-olds Alexandra Trusova and Anna Shcherbakova having finished behind Valieva in a Russian 1-2-3 at the European championships last month.

The trio share the same coaches and all three regularly perform quadruple jumps – the most difficult in the sport and very rare in women’s figure skating in general.

Neither Trusova nor Shcherbakova have had any issues with their tests.

Valieva’s future in hands of three-person panel

The IOC says the Cas hearing will only be about the lifting of Valieva’s provisional suspension, which was imposed by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada).

The full case will be heard by Rusada because the drug test was at a national competition, but Wada can appeal against any decision.

Valieva returned a positive test for the banned substance trimetazidine at the Russian Figure Skating Championships on 25 December.

But it was only reported on 8 February, the day after she became the first female skater to land a quadruple jump at an Olympics to help the Russian Olympic Committee team win gold.

When the issue came to light, the medal ceremony was postponed at short notice.

The medals for the team event – in which the United States finished second, Japan third and Canada fourth – will not be awarded until after the outcome of the hearing.

Trimetazidine is used in the prevention of angina attacks but is on the banned list because it is classed as a cardiac metabolic modulator and has been proven to improve physical efficiency.

Valieva has been allowed to train after a successful challenge against her provisional suspension by Rusada.

But the IOC, Wada and the International Skating Union (ISU) have now appealed to Cas against Rusada’s decision to allow her to continue.

The Cas panel will consist of president Fabio Iudica of Italy and arbitrators Jeffrey Benz, of the United States, and Slovenian Vesna Bergant Rakocevic.

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