IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Russian figure skating star back on the ice in Beijing after report of positive drug test

The medal ceremony for the team figure skating was delayed earlier this week because of what the International Olympic Committee called a legal issue that could affect medalists. 
Get more newsLiveon

Russian figure skating prodigy Kamila Valieva was back on the ice in Beijing Thursday after reports that she tested positive for a banned substance prior to the Winter Olympics.

The medal ceremony for the team figure skating, in which the 15-year-old superstar helped the Russian athletes win gold, was delayed earlier this week because of what the International Olympic Committee called a legal issue that could affect medalists. 

NBC Sports and other outlets reported that Valieva tested positive late last year for a heart medication called trimetazidine.

The substance is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency because it can help endurance and increase blood flow efficiency, according to The Associated Press. 

NBC News has not been able to independently verify the report and has reached out to the Russian Olympic Committee for a response.

It remains unclear what the issue could mean for the team figure skating competition, in which Russian Olympic Committee athletes won gold, the United States took silver and Japan bronze. A positive test could cost the Russians the gold medal and potentially end Valieva’s chance of another later this week.

Russia's Kamila Valieva, right, starred in the figure skating team event.Wang Zhao / AFP - Getty Images

Despite the media storm gathering around her, Valieva was pictured smiling on the ice Thursday as she trained and her coaches looked on rink side. 

The skating superstar is the clear favorite to win the women’s individual figure skating event and has already become the first woman to land a quad in the Olympics, helping her team to cap a dominant run to the gold medal. 

Sadiya Khan, a cardiologist at Northwestern Medicine, said the drug reportedly involved in the case was originally developed to increase the efficiency of the heart and allow better blood flow to the organ so that patients with heart disease can get relief from symptoms.

“If it’s being used in someone who’s healthy and has no blockages, it’s theoretically possible that it may help them exercise for longer or more efficiently, which specifically in an athlete’s case, may give them a false advantage,” she said.

“It seems very unlikely that this medication was being prescribed for someone so young for any appropriate reason.”

But she cautioned that the medicine has not been shown to be effective in improving symptoms or improving blood flow, even though there may be this theoretical benefit.

“Even if this was used to cheat, it’s likely not the most effective way to cheat,” she added.

Russian athletes are in Beijing competing as the “Russian Olympic Committee” (ROC), after the country was banned due to a state-sponsored doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. They are not able to compete under their country’s name, or with its flag or anthem.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “everyone started yelling right and left” about the reports when the only source that should be relied upon in this case is the IOC. "We are guided by the IOC information, and we wish our athletes — including Valieva — only the gold,” he said.

“Kamila is not suspended from participating in the Games,” said Russian figure skating federation spokeswoman Olga Ermolina. “We are waiting for the official statements from the IOC,” she said, declining to comment further.

The case may be more complicated because minors have protection from being identified within global sporting rules on the subject, according to The Associated Press.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams declined to comment Thursday “on all sorts of speculation that I have also seen overnight.” 

He repeated only that a situation had arisen Wednesday at short notice that has “legal implications” and that it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment further. 

The International Testing Agency said it was aware of various reports following the postponed medal ceremony but that any announcement connected to these events would be publicly issued on its website and not commented on otherwise.

The International Skating Union said in a statement Thursday that in reference to recent media reports it cannot disclose any information about any possible anti-doping rule violation in line with its own rules and those of the IOC for the Beijing 2022 Games. 

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee said Wednesday that it was receiving information at the same time as the media and was waiting to see what happens next.