WASHINGTON — Kamila Valieva, the Russian figure skater embroiled in an ongoing doping scandal, is speaking out in support of her coaches after the Olympics president called out the team's "coldness" toward the young skater.
The 15-year-old uploaded two Instagram posts in the days after the end of the Olympics: one in which she thanks her fans for their support during the "tough period," and another where she expresses gratitude for her coaches for making her "feel protected and pass any test."
The teen tested positive for using a banned heart medication, but the result wasn’t announced by anti-doping officials until after she’d won gold as part of the team competition, even though the sample was taken weeks earlier.
After she failed to medal in the women's competition, spectators around the world were heartbroken to see an inconsolable Valieva be coldly chastised by coach Eteri Tutberidze as she walked off the rink, with the IOC president calling the scene "chilling."
There was widespread international condemnation against the Russian Olympic Committee and Valieva's coaches, with many prominent athletes saying both parties failed to protect the minor and arguing that she should have never been allowed to skate at the Games.
Despite this, Valieva's posts seem to indicate nothing but admiration for her coaches and the ROC.
"You are absolute masters in your field!" Valieva wrote on Instagram in Russian in the first post, referring to her coaches. "You not only train, but also teach [how] to overcome yourself, which helps not only in sports, but also in life."
Her second post was directed at fans and spectators who have supported the skater throughout the scandal. She included several photos of what appear to be Russian billboard signs with the phrase "Kamila, we are with you."
"Thank you, my fans, my family and friends, my coaches, the entire ROC team, my country, and people from all over the world," Valieva wrote in both English and Russian. " I will always remember this, be grateful to you and skate for you."
Originally considered the gold medal favorite in the women's competition, Valieva's scandal began on Feb. 8 after a Stockholm lab confirmed the 15-year-old tested positive for the banned heart drug trimetazidine, which is commonly used to treat people with angina. She was provisionally suspended by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) after she had already helped the ROC win gold in the figure skating team event, forcing the IOC to postpone the medal ceremony.
Valieva appealed the RUSADA suspension, which was lifted. On Feb. 11, the International Testing Agency (ITA) on behalf of the IOC, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and International Skating Union (ISU) subsequently filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) calling for Valieva’s provisional suspension to be reinstated.
After a hastily-arranged hearing, CAS ruled in favor of Valieva, in part because she is a minor, known in Olympic jargon as a “protected person," and is subject to different rules from an adult athlete.
Valieva was back on the ice on Feb. 17 for the individual competition, but she fell twice during a shaky performance, ultimately ranking fourth.
Although the ROC won gold in the team skating event, the IOC has refused to hand over the medals from the competition, indicating that it will finish an investigation on the Valieva scandal before finalizing the results.