Pressure and meltdown of a 15-year-old Russian figure skater in Beijing 2022 Olympic Finals

 ZHANGJIAKOU, China (AP) — Two legal substances used to improve heart function were listed on an anti-doping control form filled out for Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva before her drug case at the Olympics erupted, according to documents submitted on her behalf.

The World Anti-Doping Agency filed a brief in the Valieva case stating that the mention on the form of L-carnitine and Hypoxen, though both legal, undercuts the argument that a banned substance, trimetazidine, might have entered the skater’s system accidentally.

Hypoxen, a drug designed to increase oxygen flow to the heart, was a substance the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency recently tried, without success, to get placed on the banned list. L-carnitine, another oxygen-boosting performance enhancer, is banned if injected above certain thresholds. The supplement was the focal point of the doping case involving track coach Alberto Salazar.

Combining those with 2.1 nanograms of the heart medicine trimetazidine, the drug found in Valieva’s system after a Dec. 25 test, is “an indication that something more serious is going on,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said.

“You use all of that to increase performance,” he said. “It totally undermines the credibility” of Valieva’s defense.

Two people with knowledge of the case told The Associated Press that a brief seen by the AP that was filed by the World Anti-Doping Agency in a hearing on Valieva’s case was authentic. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the document was not publicly available. WADA did not immediately respond to an email left by the AP asking for comment on the brief.

The brief describes Valieva’s mother as arguing that the skater’s grandfather was a regular user of trimetazidine, which would explain how it got into her system. But WADA said that explanation was not enough to clear her of a doping violation.

The brief also says Valieva’s mother testified that her daughter used Hypoxen to treat “heart variations.”

Valieva’s positive test came to light after she had led the Russians to a gold medal in the team skating event last week. Russia’s anti-doping agency at first suspended her, then lifted the suspension. That led WADA and the IOC to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which determined Valieva could skate in the women’s event that began Tuesday.

Because she is 15, she is considered a “protected person” under anti-doping rules and could escape major sanctions. Her coaches and other members of her entourage are subject to automatic investigation and bigger penalties.

The larger case involving the positive test, and resolving whether Russia will get its gold medal, will be decided later. In the meantime, the IOC has said there will be no medal ceremony for events in which Valieva makes the podium. She’s a favorite for gold, and was leading after the short program.


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  • Diana Nyad posted on FB and Medium

    Supremely talented Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, at 15, was old enough to skate in the Beijing Olympic Games. Then it follows that she was old enough to be held to the doping standards of the Olympic Games.
    WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) issues a strict ban list and one of those drugs, trimetazidine, was detected in Valieva’s system in December. As is always included in a drug ban procedure, Valieva was allowed to protest the findings and she did, claiming it was a confusion of medicines—her grandfather evidently takes a heart medicine that includes trimetazidine and Valieva claimes her meds got swapped for his by mistake.
    Those working in the trenches of Olympic doping claim that it just never turns out to be true, that an athlete has no idea how a banned substance got into their system. After all, the Russian athletes, for three Olympics now, cannot even compete under the name of their country, due to the consistent doping programs ferreted out there. They now compete under the bizarre name, Russian Olympic Committee. If ever the Russian athletes, no matter how young, have been keenly aware of doping standards, it is now. But let’s say Valieva, young as she is, really did take this substance with total innocence. The fact that the drug was in her system calls for a bold line to be drawn. Her appeal could not be handled before the Beijing Games. She cannot compete.
    The Olympic Committee reviewing the case claimed she was so young, touted to be the best in the world, that keeping her from competing before her case was resolved would cause her “irreparable harm”. That’s when we turn to many other athletes who have claimed to have lost years of grueling training, to have had their dreams dashed, never to be revisited, by way of drug tests they declare they have erroneously failed.
    Sha’Carri Richardson is the most recent case. Richardson won the U.S. Olympic Trials 100-meter dash and was heading to Toyko 2020 with hopes of a gold medal, after her stellar collegiate career and her breaking into the fastest ten women sprinters of all time right before the Games. She claims cannabis was helping relieve some emotional turmoil she was experiencing and was busted right before the Games, not allowed to compete. Many experts (many citizens, such as myself) were outraged and confused by cannabis being listed on the WADA banned list. There is evidently very weak evidence to suggest cannabis helps performance in any way.
    But a heart medicine such as trimetazidine has tested out as boosting endurance and also as increasing blood efficiency, especially when combined with other types of over-the-counter, non-banned substances. The casual fan thinks of cheating drugs as steroids that build muscle mass, obviously an aid in brute strength and explosive speed. The generic name for those types of performance-enhancing drugs is anabolic steroids. Most of us know the cases of baseball players Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, superior talents with superior careers but no doubt never heading to the Hall of Fame, due to their steroid use.
    But there is a full menu of types of substances that can aid an athlete. Remember the EPO scandal of Tour de France cyclists. It wasn’t just Lance Armstrong who admitted to years of EPO use. It was nearly every world-class cyclist of his era. Erythropoietin, simply put, increases the production of red blood cells, meaning a bigger volume of oxygen delivered to the muscles. Endurance cyclists don’t want huge muscle mass. What they want is an oxygen-driver to help them charge up the steep climbs of the Alps.
    In figure skating, obviously, it is again not steroids that would give advantage. Kamila Valieva has not only worked hard but she is a lithe, dazzlingly elegant skater who needs great endurance to jump and speed around the ice for a fairly long program. Whether she took the trimetazidine purposefully or by absolute random accident, it was in her system. The Olympic drug auspices didn’t think barring Sha’Carri Richardson from the prime-of-her-life moment in Tokyo would cause her “irreparable harm”?
    If the Olympics are not the standard of uniform justice, where can we turn for the gold standard in sport?
    It was crushing to witness the usually sublimely perfect Valieva fall to the ice several times in her routine. It was worse to hear her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, chastise her after her skate: “Why did you let it go? Why did you stop fighting?” But all the blame for the debacle in Beijing lies in the lap of the International Olympic Committee. There are rules that must be nailed down with Olympic gold stakes. Valieva should not have been allowed to compete.
    I hope we will see Valieva in her full glory of talent and grace the next time, with a clean drug profile.
    You can read this @Medium essay (along with many others) by clicking the link below:

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