Russian skating star Kamila Valieva took to the ice in a stuttered and underwhelming performance at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Thursday, missing her shot at a medal in the women’s singles event that she was expected to easily win.
For many onlookers, the 15-year-old prodigy’s mere presence in the final was a calamity for the sport.
Soon after she became the first female skater in history to land a quad jump at the Winter Olympics in last week’s team event, it was revealed that Valieva tested positive in December for a banned heart medication that increases blood flow and aids endurance.
The scandal has cast a shadow over a Winter Olympics that was to be Chinese President Xi Jinping’s opportunity to present a more cordial China after a series of diplomatic boycotts of the Games over alleged human rights abuses.
“I am so angry. The ladies event is a complete joke,” former Team USA skater Adam Rippon tweeted Monday. “So many Olympic experiences were stolen from clean athletes who got here without the help of performance-enhancing drugs. What a shame.”
Valieva denies doping, saying she believes a mix-up with her grandfather’s medication is behind her positive test result.
Russian Teen Valieva Allowed to Skate Again at Beijing Olympics
Despite the International Testing Agency’s (ITA) findings, the Court of Arbitration (CAS) allowed Valieva to continue competing in the Games, citing “exceptional circumstances” including her age.
The ruling angered many fellow competitors, who believe the case is a further example of Russia — which is already formally banned from the Games over past doping violations — getting an illegal upper hand against their opponents.
“I think it’s completely unfair to the rest of the competitors,” said Chinese-American skater Zhu Yi. “It’s the fact that everybody else is clean and she tested positive.”