Russian figure skating star Kamila Valieva tested positive for a banned substance, the International Testing Agency confirmed Friday. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Russian figure skating star Kamila Valieva tested positive for a banned substance, the International Testing Agency confirmed Friday, as an emergency hearing now awaits to determine her fate at the Beijing Olympics.
In a statement, the ITA said that a sample taken from Valieva in December tested positive on Tuesday for trimetazidine, a banned heart medication. It was the first official confirmation in a doping saga that has surrounded the Russian teen for most of the week
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency, known as RUSADA, initially suspended Valieva after the failed test but reversed its decision on Wednesday after the skater appealed, the ITA said. That move would have allowed the Russian teen to compete in the upcoming women's singles event next week.
However, the ITA said Friday that it was leading an urgent appeal to challenge the Russian agency's ruling on behalf of the International Olympic Committee.
"The IOC will exercise its right to appeal and not to wait for the reasoned decision by RUSADA, because a decision is needed before the next competition the athlete is due to take part in," the ITA said in its statement. The hearing will take place before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Valieva is the overwhelming gold medal favorite in women's singles, which starts on Tuesday. The teen phenom made history in the team competition this week when she became the first woman to land quad jumps at an Olympic event.
Stories began swirling when the medal ceremony for the team competition was postponed Tuesday due to an unspecified "legal issue."
Russian newspapers later reported that Valieva had tested positive for trimetazidine, an angina medicine that has been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency since 2014 for its potential to enhance blood flow efficiency and aid endurance.
There had been no official confirmation before the ITA statement, however, and Valieva continued her scheduled practice sessions on Thursday and Friday morning.
Complicating the situation is the Russian's age -- at just 15, she is classified as a "protected person" under WADA guidelines and does not need to be publicly identified in the case of a doping violation.
On Friday, the ITA said it came forward due to the intense press scrutiny that had emerged around the case.
"Seeing that some in the media did not grant her the same protection and have reported widely on the basis of unofficial information following the postponement of the medal ceremony [Tuesday] ... the ITA acknowledges the necessity for official information due to heightened public interest," the statement said.
The sample from Valieva had been collected by RUSADA on Dec. 25 at the Russian figure skating championships in Saint Petersburg and the positive test result was reported by a Swedish lab on Tuesday, the ITA said.
Because the Russian agency collected the sample, the case was under its jurisdiction, the ITA explained. RUSADA initially hit Valieva with a provisional suspension that would have prevented her from competing in the Beijing Games, but the skater successfully appealed the decision at a hearing on Wednesday.
As a protected minor, Valieva could still receive as little as a reprimand under the WADA rulebook, while her coaches and team doctors are certain to face heightened scrutiny.
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.
If Valieva's failed drug test causes the Russian Olympic Committee 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.
That decision, which will be made by the International Skating Union, won't happen until the IOC appeal is finished, however.
"The decision on the results of the ROC team in the Team Figure Skating event can be taken by the ISU only after a final decision on the full merits of the case has been taken," the ITA said.
Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China perform during the pairs figure skating free program in the Capital Indoor Stadium at the Beijing Winter Olympic on February 19, 2022. Sui and Han of China won the gold. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo