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Thu, March 14, 2024

The Russian skater doping case prompts WADA to consider new regulations ahead of the upcoming Winter Olympics

The Russian skater doping case prompts WADA to consider new regulations ahead of the upcoming Winter Olympics

WADA wants anti-doping rules to be updated before the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy to give more powers to investigate athlete entourages, officials said at the anti-doping body's annual conference Tuesday.

In January, Valieva received a four-year ban from the Court of Arbitration for Sport after an appeal by WADA. At the age of 15, her positive test for a prohibited heart medication was disclosed during the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, which she blamed on a strawberry dessert prepared by her grandfather. Despite the World Anti-Doping Code requiring investigations into individuals associated with underage athletes involved in doping cases, she remains the sole individual sanctioned.

The responsibility to conduct those investigations falls on national authorities and there is no sign that Valieva’s renowned coach Eteri Tutberidze and medical support staff will be held to account in Russia.

Instead, Tutberidze was last year awarded one of Russia’s highest honors authorized by President Vladimir Putin.

Niggli acknowledged that “the evidence is not there” to link the coach directly with Valieva’s doping case, suggesting that “maybe the physio, maybe the doctor” were involved.

The list of substances provided by three Russian doctors is contained in the written judgment of Valieva’s case, which has led to Russia’s team figure-skating gold medal instead going to the USA.

Valieva's doctors claimed that at the age of 14, she was diagnosed with a condition known as "athlete's heart," which warranted the use of heart medications. However, this did not hinder her ability to continue competing. This raised concerns for Niggli, who commented to The Times, "The substance she was caught for was likely part of a combination of various other substances used to address heart conditions."

“If she is 14 years old and has a heart condition, then there’s probably other things that need to be done with her than elite sport. This is clearly something that the medical commissions of international sport are going to have to look at again. It’s not normal.”

The report reveals that between the ages of 13 and 15, Russian team doctors administered 55 other non-prohibited medications and supplements to Valieva. Additionally, a 56th non-prohibited substance, Ecdysterone, was detected in her urine sample.

“We think the athlete didn’t take this substance alone, it was not her initiative,” WADA President Witold Banka told The Associated Press in an interview. “She faced the consequences.”

“It is never nice when we see the athlete punished and we feel that someone who was really responsible for it from Russia is free of charge,” Banka added, lamenting that “the current geopolitical situation” will not allow for a WADA-appointed investigation in Russia.

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