Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva finished her new routine by covering her head with a black hood.
For the previous four minutes, he has been interpreting his experience at this year’s Winter Olympics, where the world was shocked by the events surrounding a 15-year-old’s failed drug test.
He takes off the cover to soak up the joy, his fans throw dozens of toys and flowers onto the ice.
Off the ice a few weeks later, he now finds himself under another metaphorical hood.
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) – which did not directly name Valieva – said on Friday the decision of the case would not be made public “Protecting the interests” of a figure skater who is a “protected person”.
This prompted harsh words from Travis Tygart, chief executive of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), who said that “keeping the decision and the facts secret makes a mockery of the whole process”.
He called on global bodies such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and the International Skating Union (ISU) to immediately announce an appeal against any decision.
It also raised questions about what will happen to the Olympic figure skating team event medals, which have yet to be presented eight months after the competition.
Valieva helped the Russian Olympic Committee to victory in the team event, but before the medal ceremony, news broke of her failed event. The IOC took the unprecedented step of delaying the awarding of medals until the matter was resolved.
The new season of international figure skating begins this weekend without a trace of the darkest cloud of the previous one.
How did we get here, and what could happen next?
Drama in Beijing – not yet a movie, but already a skating routine
Valieva arrived in Beijing in February in pursuit of gold, and in less than six months since her senior debut she has achieved multiple world records and a European title to her name.
She made global headlines by becoming the first female figure skater to land a quadruple jump at a Games, and wowed the judges with her highly technical yet aesthetically beautiful routine as she helped the Russian Olympic Committee to victory in the team event.
But before anyone could put a team medal around their neck, everything changed. One of the biggest scandals ever at the Olympics erupted when it was revealed that a sample taken six weeks before the Games tested positive for the banned angina drug trimetazidine.
Not only was this announced on the world’s biggest stage, but it also involved a child.
Rusada appealed the provisional suspension, which was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport following appeals by the IOC, Wada and ISU, meaning he was allowed to continue competing in Beijing.
Under the intense scrutiny of the global media and with his entourage in the spotlight, he took to the ice, fighting back tears, into the free skate in the short program that put him first in the rankings.
Two days later, her skating went haywire and she fell several times, leaving the ice in tears – berated by her coaches rather than consoled – and sobbing as she waited for the score to finish fourth.
Now he’s living some of that experience in the 2022-23 routines.
The feature-length program begins with Games’ words from a CNN report about him: “It was unexpected, it was shocking…” and is set to music from The Truman Show – about reality TV and a movie about a life being played out. global audience
He hasn’t said specifically what message he’s trying to convey with this new routine, but he’s widely quoted in Russian media as saying, “I’d like to share this, because this story needs to be lived to be fully accepted.”
Valieva is still working with the same coach Eteri Tutberidze, who was under scrutiny in Beijing with International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach calling his behavior “chilling” for failing to calm his tearful charges. Discussing her new routine, the teenager added: ‘If I didn’t like the idea [of this programme], I would say so. The coaches would listen.”
The hat he pulls off at the end is a reminder of the time he covered his face to walk on reporters from his past, and all their questions, shortly after reporting the drug test after a training session.
His short program, on the other hand, writes in Morse code the word he told the Russian media that he “probably lost a bit at the Olympics,” without explaining what the word is.
Valieva is scheduled to perform at an event in Moscow this weekend, although it is unclear whether Rusada’s decisions will affect that.
Waiting for medals is “very annoying” because the anti-doping process takes time
American men’s Olympic champion Nathan Chen, whose team finished second behind the Russians in the team event in Beijing, spoke this week of the frustration of not knowing what was going on.
“That’s probably the hardest thing, not having the knowledge of the situation,” he told the Associated Press. “We get updates and it’s always, ‘We don’t know what’s going on.’ That’s really annoying.”
Added teammate and ice dancer Madison Chock, “It’s always in the back of our minds.”
His team’s silver could turn into gold, with Japan moving up to silver and Canada to bronze. But Russia may end up keeping the gold as well.
The US team launched an unsuccessful legal challenge to try to get the medals handed out at the Games, and at the time, lawyers for the Americans said it could be as far as 2024 before they get them.
Former Canadian figure skater Meagan Duhamel, reacting to Rusada’s statement, tweeted: “This needs to be fixed! Enough is enough.”
What has Valieva been doing since Beijing and will we see her skate again?
Less than a week after Valieva left the ice in Beijing, Russia invaded Ukraine.
International sporting events were pulled away from Russia as part of sanctions against Moscow, and its athletes – banned from events due to state-sponsored doping but allowed to compete under a neutral flag in certain circumstances – were disinvited from others. the war
This means that her failed drug test means that Valieva is currently unable to compete in top international events, as the International Skating Union has banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from its competitions.
Valieva, who met Russian President Vladimir Putin in April at a ceremony honoring the Beijing 2022 medal winners, returned to competition in March at the Channel One Cup – a domestic exhibition event held at the same time as the World Championships without the Russians. and appeared in ice shows in the summer.
He has continued to train with Tutberidze, whose entourage Wada said in Beijing that he would be investigating. No word has been given about the outcome of that process.
In September, Valieva presented her new routines for this season, which she will show this weekend in the Russian capital.
Even if he puts the hat back on, he won’t pretend that there’s still some work to be done in this case.