Beijing Winter Olympics: US Could Prosecute Russians in Kamila Valieva doping case, says USADA Chief

Reuters
Beijing, China Updated: Feb 11, 2022, 08:03 PM(IST)

Kamila Valieva of Russia returned a positive dope test at the Beijing Winter Olympics. Photograph:( AFP )

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The United States could prosecute the Russians involved in the figure skater Kamila Valieva’s doping case under the American Rodchenkov Act (RADA).

The United States could prosecute the Russians involved in figure skater Kamila Valieva’s doping case under the American Rodchenkov Act (RADA), the head of the U.S. Anti Doping Agency (USADA), Travis Tygart, told Reuters on Friday.

The RADA bill was signed into U.S. law in 2020 and empowers American prosecutors to seek fines of up to $1 million and jail terms of up to 10 years, even for non-Americans, if actions have affected American athletes’ results.

Russian Valieva won gold in the team event on Monday but the International Testing Agency (ITA) said on Friday the 15-year-old had earlier failed a drug test. The United States won silver and Japan bronze. read more

Olympic officials are now contesting Russia's decision to let her compete at the Beijing Winter Games.

"The act has been used to protect one Olympic Games," Tygart said, referring to last year's Tokyo Games. "It is going to be used to protect other Olympic Games when people continue to dope.

"You cannot make it up. We are living in the twilight zone. Clean athletes deserve better, and this poor young woman deserves better. She's getting chewed up (for doping) on top of being abused by the Russian state system."

The RADA gives U.S. authorities the power to prosecute individuals for doping schemes at international events involving American athletes, sponsors or broadcasters.

It was named after Grigory Rodchenkov, a former Russia anti-doping laboratory head who turned whistleblower and helped expose Russia's state-sponsored doping following the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Russia has acknowledged some shortcomings in its implementation of anti-doping rules but denies running a state-sponsored doping programme.

Valieva delivered one of the highlights of the Beijing Games so far when she landed the first quadruple jumps by a woman in Olympic competition on Monday.

Also Read: From Russia doping row to 'inedible' food: Controversies galore at Beijing Winter Olympics 2022

Her Olympic dream, however, turned into a nightmare on Friday when the ITA revealed publicly that she had tested positive for banned angina drug Trimetazidine in a urine sample collected by Russian authorities at the national championships in St Petersburg on Dec 25.

The testing lab in Stockholm, Sweden, reported on Tuesday that her sample was positive, the day after she wowed the world and helped win the gold for her team, who are competing as the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) due to doping sanctions.

It was not immediately clear why there was such a delay between her test and the result, which allowed her to travel to Beijing and take part in the first of her two events.

"Whoever was dealing with it simply, absolutely should have expedited it," Tygart said. "It is not that difficult to do. A five-week delay for a substance like this should not have happened.

"It is a catastrophic failure of the system to allow the star of the Games to have her sample not reported back close to five weeks, and then it gets reported the day after they won the team event.

"You shouldn’t be in a government or sport and (be) able to dope athletes and there be no consequence. It was exactly what happened in state-sponsored doping, and this is why the Rodchenkov Act was passed. It's the only way to address this behaviour.

"Many of us were disappointed in the initial state-sponsored doping (in Russia) that was exposed back in 2015, that those who orchestrated and conspired to abuse young athletes ... were not held accountable by their sport or their own governments."

Russian athletes at the Games are not competing under their flag, and their anthem is not played at any ceremonies following sanctions imposed for the widespread doping across many sports exposed after the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

The sanctions are due to be lifted at the end of the year, but the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency cautioned earlier this month that Russia should not assume this would happen automatically.

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