Kamila Valiyeva had ‘no fault’ in drug test case, Russian Anti-Doping Agency says

Kamila Valieva
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A Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) tribunal said figure skater Kamila Valiyeva bore “no fault or negligence” for her positive drug test for a banned heart medication on Christmas 2021, after which she was allowed to compete in February’s Olympics.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said the tribunal disqualified her results from the date of the test, which would mean she is stripped of her national title. The RUSADA tribunal issued no further sanction.

WADA said it was concerned by the RUSADA tribunal decision, requested a full copy of the reasoned decision and may appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Valiyeva’s Olympic results, helping Russia to the top score in the team event (medals have not been awarded yet pending the result of her case) and placing fourth individually, have not been affected yet.

In November, WADA’s president said it had already taken the case to CAS, citing no progress in RUSADA coming to a decision. CAS said then that WADA sought to strip Valiyeva’s Olympic results and a four-year ban, which could rule her out of the next Winter Olympics in 2026.

The CAS verdict is usually final and binding with the exception of the right to appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal within 30 days on very limited procedural grounds. Doping cases that go to CAS can take months or years before a resolution.

Valiyeva, then 15, was the favorite going into February’s Olympics. After helping a team of Russian skaters win the team event, news surfaced of the positive test. The medal ceremony for the team event was postponed indefinitely. The medals still have not been awarded and will not be until Valiyeva’s case is adjudicated. The U.S. originally placed second and could be upgraded to gold if Valiyeva’s Olympic results are disqualified.

After the positive test surfaced, Valiyeva was allowed to compete in the individual event after a RUSADA anti-doping disciplinary committee lifted her suspension upon appeal by the skater.

The committee cited, among other reasons, a “low” amount of the banned substance in Valiyeva’s sample, that she tested negative before and after the Dec. 25 test and that, as an athlete under the age of 16, she had less of a burden of proof.

Anti-doping rules have a provision that athletes under the age of 16 may face lesser punishments for doping violations than those 16 and over, including a reprimand rather than a suspension.

The International Olympic Committee, WADA and the International Skating Union then appealed RUSADA’s lifting of the suspension to CAS, which then ruled that Valiyeva could compete in the Olympics while her case was still being adjudicated.

Valiyeva topped the Olympic short program, then struggled in the free skate and finished fourth overall.

The CAS panel largely based its February decision on an “untenable delay” in Valiyeva’s sample test results being processed through a Stockholm lab, which led to a short time frame to rule on her Olympic eligibility during the Games. “This case was not about the underlying alleged anti-doping rule violation and the panel takes no position on that,” it stated in February.

All Russian figure skaters have been banned from international competition since February due to the nation’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Scotty James wins fifth X Games snowboard halfpipe title

Scotty James
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Scotty James doesn’t have Olympic gold, but he remains king of the X Games halfpipe.

James, the Australian snowboarder who took bronze and silver at the last two Olympics, earned his fifth Aspen gold, repeating as champ of the biggest annual contest under falling snow in the Colorado Rockies. Only the retired Shaun White has more X Games men’s snowboard halfpipe titles with eight.

Nobody on Friday night attempted a triple cork, which was first done in competition by Japan’s Ayumu Hirano last season en route to the Olympic title. Hirano placed sixth Friday.

“It was a tough night, pretty interesting conditions,” James said. “Had to adjust the game plan. The show goes on.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression over the course of a three-run jam session for the entire field rather than scoring individual runs.

Earlier, Olympic gold medalist Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand repeated as women’s snowboard slopestyle champion, passing Olympic bronze medalist Tess Coady of Australia on the final run of the competition. Sadowski-Synnott, the only snowboarder or skier to win Olympic, world and X Games slopestyle titles, capped her finale with back-to-back 900s.

The competition lacked 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion Jamie Anderson, who announced her pregnancy last month.

Canada’s Megan Oldham landed the first triple cork in women’s ski big air competition history to beat Olympic silver medalist Tess Ledeux of France, according to commentators. Oldham, a 21-year-old ex-gymnast, was fourth at the Olympics.

Eileen Gu, the Olympic champion from China, did not compete but is entered in halfpipe and slopestyle later this weekend.

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Isabeau Levito wins U.S. figure skating title at age 15, followed by comeback stories

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Isabeau Levito won her first U.S. figure skating title at age 15, cementing her status as the new leading American woman to open the new Olympic cycle.

Levito, the world junior champion, tallied 223.33 points between two strong programs in San Jose, California. She distanced two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022 and scored 213.12.

Tennell was just two hundredths behind Levito after Thursday’s short but had multiple jumping errors in the free skate.

Levito followed her as last to go in the free and nailed the most pressure-packed performance of her young career, including the hardest jump combination done of the entire field. She didn’t receive a single negative mark from a judge for her 19 technical elements in her two programs.

Moments later, she was in tears backstage.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

“I was just so proud of myself for staying so calm and staying so focused, doing exactly what I aimed to do,” Levito, who hasn’t finished off the podium in more than 20 events dating to November 2016, said on NBC. “I’m ready to start bouncing off the walls.”

Amber Glenn, 23, placed third and will likely become the oldest U.S. women’s singles skater to make her world championships debut in at least 45 years. Glenn botched her 11th attempt to join the list of U.S. women to land a clean triple Axel (tally according to Skatingscores.com) but still moved up from fourth after the short program, passing Starr Andrews.

Last year, Glenn entered nationals as the fourth-ranked U.S. woman and a hopeful for the three-woman Olympic team. She placed 14th in the short program, competing unknowingly with COVID-19, then tested positive and withdrew before the free skate.

In 2021, Glenn was the U.S. silver medalist, yet passed over for a spot on the two-woman world team in favor of the more experienced Karen Chen, who finished 35 hundredths behind Glenn at those nationals.

Levito, Tennell and Glenn are expected to make up the team for March’s world championships, decided by a committee.

Gracie Gold, a two-time U.S. champion who was fifth after the short program, popped a pair of planned triple Lutzes and dropped to eighth.

None of the three 2022 U.S. Olympians competed. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell retired. Chen is a student at Cornell and might not return.

Nationals continue Saturday with the free dance and pairs’ free skate, live on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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