— Published 26 September 2023

Kamila Valieva awaits CAS decision

The soap had disappeared from screens for several months. It returns this week, with the same actors, but a scenario as uncertain as ever. The Kamila Valieva case, which began in February 2022 in Beijing, during the last Winter Games, has moved to a new setting. It is taking place in Lausanne, at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

On Tuesday 26 September, the court opens the hearing into the trimetazidine doping case involving the young Russian figure skater. The hearing is expected to last at least three days, but no more than four. It will be held behind closed doors, in person and remotely. Kamila Valieva and the representatives of the Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA) will be heard from Moscow by videoconference.

The date of the verdict of the three CAS arbitrators is not known and, barring any surprises, will not be announced this week. All that is known is that the “losers” in the proceedings will be able to lodge an appeal with the Swiss Federal Court within 30 days.

As a reminder, the case pits Kamila Valieva, the 2021 world figure skating champion who tested positive in December of the same year at the Russian championships, against a trio made up of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the International Skating Union (ISU) and RUSADA. They are challenging the lack of suspension imposed on the young Russian in January 2023 by RUSADA’s independent disciplinary commission. They are demanding up to four years’ suspension and the annulment of all her results since December 2021, the date of the positive test revealed during the Beijing 2022 Winter Games.

The CAS verdict will have a domino effect not only on Kamila Valieva’s sporting career. More than 18 months after the Winter Games, it is likely to decide the podium in the Olympic team figure skating event. In Beijing, Russia won ahead of the United States, Japan and Canada. But the revelation that the young Russian had tested positive led the IOC to postpone the medal ceremony. It has never taken place since.

After the date of the hearing was announced, the American skaters asked CAS for permission to observe the exchanges from Lausanne. They were refused.

But at least one of them, Vincent Zhou, does not intend to remain silent as the battle of experts and lawyers decides the Olympic prize list for the team event. Vincent Zhou, 22, world individual medallist in 2019 and 2022, has taken the lead in attacking the Olympic movement for its handling of the Valieva affair.

As my team’s empty medal cases show, the global anti-doping system is failing athletes, he explained in a statement. The revered elitism of the Olympic Games is based on the principles of clean sport and fair competition. But the Beijing 2022 figure skating team awards ceremony, when it finally takes place, will be a symbol of the glaring failures of the IOC, CAS, RUSADA and other global sports administrations. Justice delayed is justice denied, and my teammates and I will never again get the chance to stand before the world to celebrate a lifetime of hard work, culminating in a career-defining achievement.

The young American confirmed that he and the other members of the Beijing 2022 figure skating team had asked CAS for the right to attend the hearing this week. To no avail. “We were told that one or other of the parties concerned would have had to request a public hearing, but none of them did so. The proceedings will take place behind closed doors. An open and transparent hearing would have greatly helped the athletes to understand the decision that will be made.

Kamila Valieva celebrated her 17th birthday last April. Following the affair, the ISU decided last June to raise the minimum age for taking part in an international competition. It will be raised from 15 to 17 as of next season.