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Russian skater Kamila Valieva appears at practice after reported positive drug test

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Russian skater Kamila Valieva appears at practice after reported positive drug test
Kamila Valieva of Russia reportedly tested positive for a banned substance, as the medal ceremony for the team figure skating event remains on hold due to an unspecified "legal issue." Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Russian figure skating sensation Kamila Valieva, who reportedly tested positive for a banned substance, appeared at her scheduled practice session on Thursday as questions continue to swirl around a potential doping scandal that has rocked the Beijing Winter Games.

The saga began after a medal ceremony for the team figure skating competition was postponed on Tuesday due to an unspecified "legal issue."

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A report Wednesday on Inside the Games, an Olympics news website, indicated that the delay had been due to a drug test taken by the 15-year-old Valieva before the Beijing Games.

Russian newspapers RBC and Kommersant later reported that Valieva had tested positive for trimetazidine, a heart medication prescribed to treat angina that has been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency since 2014.

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As of Thursday afternoon, no confirmations had been issued by the International Olympic Committee or the International Testing Agency, a Switzerland-based organization that manages the Olympics' anti-doping program.

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Marc Adams, spokesman for the IOC, said Thursday that the doping reports were "complete speculation."

"We had a situation arise yesterday at short notice that has legal implications," Adams said at a press conference. "I'm not going to comment on a legal case because it wouldn't be appropriate."

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In the meantime, Valieva appeared for her scheduled practice skate as usual on Thursday morning. She entered the Games as the heavy favorite to win the gold medal in the women's singles event, set to begin on Tuesday.

"Kamila has not been suspended from participating in the Games," Russian Figure Skating Federation spokeswoman Olga Yermolina told Russian news agency TASS.

"We are waiting for official statements from the International Olympic Committee," she said. "As for the awarding of medals in the team tournament, the date should also be decided by the IOC."

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The teen phenom led the Russian Olympic Committee to the gold medal in the team figure skating event on Monday, with dominant performances in both the short program and the free skate. Along the way, Valieva became the first woman ever to land a quadruple jump in Olympic competition, nailing both a quad salchow and a quad toe loop.

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Valieva's age further complicates the legal issues around the doping case. At just 15 years old, she is classified as a "protected person" under World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines, which stipulate that public disclosure of a violation is not required. She may also face significantly reduced penalties due to her status.

Trimetazidine is classified by WADA as a metabolic modulator and is banned for its potential to enhance blood flow efficiency and aid endurance.

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Chinese star swimmer Sun Yang served a three-month suspension in 2014 after testing positive for trimetazidine, while Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva was disqualified from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games for the drug.

If the failed drug test causes the ROC to be stripped of its gold medal in the team figure skating event, the remaining teams would move up on the podium, with the silver medalist Americans becoming the winners. Japan would take silver and Canada, which placed fourth, would get the bronze.

Russian athletes are competing for the second consecutive Olympics under a neutral banner, as the country remains banned from the Games due to a systematic, state-sponsored doping program. However, athletes able to prove that they are "clean" are permitted to participate.

The Beijing Games had their first confirmed doping case on Wednesday, when the International Testing Agency said that Iranian Alpine skier Hossein Saveh Shemshaki tested positive for an anabolic steroid on Monday.

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"The athlete is prevented from competing, training, coaching, or participating in any activity, during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022," the ITA said. It would have been the Iranian athlete's third Olympics.

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