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IOC chief Bach 'very disturbed' by Kamila Valieva performance; blasts 'chilling' entourage

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IOC chief Bach 'very disturbed' by Kamila Valieva performance; blasts 'chilling' entourage
Kamila Valieva was met with "tremendous coldness" by her coach Eteri Tutberidze after a disappointing performance in the women's singles free skate, IOC President Thomas Bach said Friday. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 18 (UPI) -- International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach had harsh words for the entourage of Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva on Friday, calling their reaction to her performance "chilling" after the teen phenom at the center of a doping scandal struggled mightily on the ice.

Valieva, who tested positive for a banned substance last week but was allowed to compete in the women's singles event, fell twice and stumbled throughout her free skate on Thursday.

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The overwhelming gold medal favorite was in the lead after Tuesday's short program but ended up finishing fourth.

Bach said during a press conference that he was "very disturbed" watching the teenager try to perform under "immense mental stress."

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"This is pressure beyond my imagination," Bach said. "For a girl of 15 years old, to see her there struggling ... maybe she would have preferred just to leave the ice and try to leave this story behind her."

Valieva skated off the ice in tears but was met with immediate criticism from her coach, Eteri Tutberidze.

"Why did you let everything go? Why did you stop fighting?" Tutberidze demanded of Valieva, in an exchange caught on camera.

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The reaction of Valieva's team to her uncharacteristically sloppy performance drew angry words from the usually circumspect IOC head.

"When I saw how she was received by her closest entourage with what appeared to be a tremendous coldness -- it was chilling to see this, " Bach said.

"Rather than giving her comfort, rather than try to help her, you could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance," he said. "All of this does not give me much confidence in the entourage of Kamila, neither with regard to what happened in the past nor the future."

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The decision to allow Valieva to compete was made by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Monday in an emergency hearing days after the teen skater tested positive for trimetazidine, a banned heart medication usually prescribed to treat angina.

In its decision, the CAS said that preventing the 15-year-old from competing at the Olympics "would cause her irreparable harm" and highlighted Valieva's status as a "protected person" due to her age.

However, the ruling did not clear Valieva from the doping charges and the World Anti-Doping Agency has announced that they are conducting an investigation into Valieva's entourage.

Bach said keeping the focus on the team surrounding Valieva is of "extreme importance."

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"Doping very rarely happens alone by the athletes," Bach said. "We trust this will come to light and we will not hesitate to take the appropriate measures -- these will be very strong measures."

Valieva's teammates, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova of the Russian Olympic Committee, won gold and silver medals in the women's singles event, respectively. Japan's Kaori Sakamoto earned the bronze.

Beijing Olympics: Russian figure skaters -- not Kamila Vilieva -- take medals in women's singles

Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva stands with coach Eteri Tutberidze after finishing fourth in the women's single figure skating at Capital Indoor Stadium at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic on Thursday. Coming into the free skate event in first place, Valieva had been favored to win the gold medal. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo

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