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The Valiyeva case reaches the highest political level

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The Valiyeva case reaches the highest political level

Canada and Russia do not accept the team competition classification at the Beijing Olympics. The Olympic committees of both countries have lodged an objection with the International Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Vladimir Putin (center) shows himself in Kazan alongside Kamila Valiyeva (right).

Sputnik/Reuters

The case of Russian figure skater Kamila Valiyeva, who tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine at the Russian championships in St. Petersburg in December 2021, is becoming a never-ending drama. Around a month after the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (TAS) in Lausanne subsequently banned the then 15-year-old for four years and stripped the Russian team of the gold medal in the team competition at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, the competition’s ranking is open again.

The TAS had decided at the time that only Valiyeva’s results had to be removed from the rankings. As a result, the Russian figure skaters fell from first place to third place. The USA inherited gold and silver went to Japan. According to the verdict, the Canadians, who were third-ranked up to this point, come away empty-handed.

The Canadian Olympic Committee has now lodged an objection with the CAS. At the same time, the Russian Olympic Committee does not accept the decision and demands that Beijing’s ranking be restored. Two years after the Games, the awarding of the medals remains unclear. It’s an affair that leaves only losers. Russia sees the sanctions against Valiyeva as a kind of declaration of war against Russian sport. In the USA and Canada there is a legal fight for gold and bronze. What will happen to the now 17-year-old figure skater is unclear.

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The case is a collective failure of the sports policy authorities

With her graceful, seemingly weightless manner, Valiyeva not only enchanted her Russian compatriots, but also the entire international sport. The news that she was said to have taken heart medication suddenly shattered this dream and turned it into a nightmare, not least for the young Russian woman herself. How the heart medication got into the young people’s bodies remains a mystery to this day. According to the Russian justification, she is said to have drunk from the same glass as her heart-sick grandfather.

The question of why it took the Russian anti-doping authority Rusada so long to report her case to the World Anti-Doping Agency Wada also remains unanswered. Since then, all sports policy authorities have been pushing the case forward. After the revelation of state-orchestrated doping around the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russian sport is already under general suspicion. Since then, Russia has been a pariah in international sport. Its athletes are only allowed to compete in Olympic competitions without nationality markings, flags and anthems. Since the attack on Ukraine two years ago, the Russians are no longer welcome outside of the games.

A 17-year-old becomes a pawn in international politics

Valiyeva has long since become a pawn in international politics. On February 21st, and only shortly after the supposedly final verdict of the CAS, a picture of the young runner emerged showing her at the opening ceremony for the “Games of the Future” in Kazan alongside Russian President and warlord Vladimir Putin. The Games of the Future, which will take place from February 21 to March 3 in Kazan and, according to its website, will invite professional athletes and clubs from all over the world, is “a sports show that combines classic and digital sports in a phygital format.” .

Phygital is a marketing portmanteau from English and means something physical and digital together. Phygital thus builds a bridge between the analog and digital worlds. It’s about the fusion of online and offline formats. But one thing is clear: Russia is primarily concerned with presenting itself as a progressive, cosmopolitan country. The Russian state obviously sees the young Valiyeva as the ideal ambassador for this image.

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It has long been clear: the ongoing dispute over the outcome of the Olympic team competition is no longer about gold or bronze or about the guilt or innocence of a young woman, but about a test of strength between the East and the West. According to the Russian perception, Kamila Valiyeva has become a kind of symbol of Western despotism, which Russia wants to keep down by all means possible. There will hardly be any winners in this showdown.

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