US athletes call for Olympic figure skating medal ceremony as Valieva sits in first place

Beijing, China - US athletes say they are "devastated" that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will drop the women's figure skating medal ceremony should Russian skater Kamila Valieva make the podium. She now sits in first place after the first half of competition on Tuesday.

Kamila Valieva held back tears after her first-place finish in the Olympic women's figure skating short program on Tuesday.
Kamila Valieva held back tears after her first-place finish in the Olympic women's figure skating short program on Tuesday.  © IMAGO/Lehtikuva & ZUMA Wire

The IOC announced on Monday that there will be no medal ceremony in the case that Valieva medals this week because her status is unclear after a positive doping test, and it wants to avoid a new medal allocation should the Russian be sanctioned later on.

The 15-year-old was allowed to compete in the women's singles event at the Beijing Games, and after the first half of competition on Tuesday has taken the lead with a score of 82.16 in the short program – faltering slightly on her triple axel.

The American women, Alysa Liu, Mariah Bell, and Karen Chen, are currently in 8th, 11th, and 13th place respectively after the short. The final long program will play out on Thursday.

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Valieva tested positive for a banned heart drug that can increase stamina in a urine sample collected on December 25. The test result came a week ago, which in itself has posed questions about the results' delay, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport decided on Monday that she can still compete.

One of her lawyers told the Associated Press the heart medication that triggered the positive test came from a contaminated cup that she used after her grandfather.

Valieva's appearance was permitted despite appeals from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and the skating governing body (ISU). But the athletes' group of the US Olympic Committee said a ceremony must take place, in a statement posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

"Clean athletes who accomplish the incredible feat of winning an Olympic and Paralympic medal deserve the opportunity to have a medal ceremony and be celebrated at the Games," it said. "All competitions at the Olympic Games must finish with a medal ceremony and we request that the IOC not take this away from the athletes."

US athletes speak out against decision allowing Valieva to compete

US star athletes Sha'Carri Richardson (l.) and Adam Rippon (r.) blasted the decision to allow Russian skater Kamila Valieva to compete at the 2022 Games after she failed a drug test.
US star athletes Sha'Carri Richardson (l.) and Adam Rippon (r.) blasted the decision to allow Russian skater Kamila Valieva to compete at the 2022 Games after she failed a drug test.  © Collage: IMAGO/Xinhua & Everett Collection

Many have called the decision to allow Valieva to compete unfair and a double standard – particularly US runner Sha'Carri Richardson, who was barred from the Summer Olympics last year after testing positive for using marijuana.

2018 Olympic figure skating medalist Adam Rippon, who is coaching American skater Bell in this week's competition in Beijing, slammed the decision.

"It’s a joke, now this is a joke," Rippon told the New York Times. "I don’t know how anybody watches this without in the back of their mind saying, this girl, whatever medal she wins, it most likely will be stripped. What’s the point of having an event like this?"

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A final decision on Valieva's case and her possible sanctions in connection with the positive test are expected at a "later date."

It will also decide the medals of the Olympic team event, which the Russian Olympic Committee originally won last week with the help of Valieva. The medal ceremony was postponed once the news of the positive test broke, with the US coming in second place. It could change the US' medal to gold if the winning team is stripped of their title.

Russia is currently banned from competing in the Olympics as a nation and is appearing at the Games without its anthem, name, or flag due to its previous doping sanctions.

Cover photo: IMAGO/Lehtikuva & ZUMA Wire

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