Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva given four-year doping ban Nearly two years after the Beijing Winter Olympics, an international sports tribunal says Russian Kamila Valieva "committed an anti-doping rule violation." The U.S. could now receive a gold medal.

Sports tribunal bans Russian Kamila Valieva from figure skating through 2025

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

One of the biggest figure skating scandals in modern Olympic history is finally near an end. Today a sports tribunal in Switzerland banned Russian skater Kamila Valieva from competition for four years. And the ruling will rearrange the medal standings from the 2022 Olympics in the team figure skating event. NPR's Brian Mann is following this. Hi there.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Hi there, Ari.

SHAPIRO: What do these sports officials say this Russian skater did wrong?

MANN: So before Kamila Valieva, this rock star skater who was then just 15 years old, showed up in Beijing back in 2022, it turns out an earlier doping test had found she used a banned performance-enhancing chemical. Valieva was allowed to compete in Beijing anyway, and that decision threw into chaos and scandal a bunch of the results from those Winter Games. What's happened today is the Court of Arbitration for Sport has confirmed that Valieva's Olympic performances are disqualified. She's banned through the end of 2025. I spoke about this with Travis Tygart, who heads the U.S. Anti-Doping agency, and he says this whole mess, Ari, highlights again just how corrupt Russia's sports industry is.

TRAVIS TYGART: Who do you have to blame? Not her, I don't think. But at the end of the day, this is the same Russia system. They're not compliant with the rules today. The system has failed athletes, including Valieva, to continue to allow them to hijack the world's largest event.

MANN: With this ruling, of course, it is actually possible that Kamila Valieva could return to compete again at the next Winter Olympics in 2026.

SHAPIRO: And what does this mean for U.S. figure skaters who competed in Beijing?

MANN: Man, these skaters have been waiting nearly two years for their medals. And a U.S. sports official today did sound confident that this would clear the way for Americans to finally be awarded the team figure skating gold medal. I spoke a little bit ago with Madison Hubbell - she's a member of the U.S. team - who says this is an exciting moment, and she thinks it will finally bring her her first Olympic gold.

MADISON HUBBELL: You become possibly an Olympic gold medalist, and that's a very great title to possess. But for all of our team, we were just anxious to see justice being done.

MANN: Now, there is one more organization that has to weigh in on this. The International Skating Union is going to ultimately decide who gets which medals. They'll issue a statement tomorrow that appears to be a formality. With Valieva disqualified, it seems pretty likely U.S. skaters will take gold, Japan silver and Canada bronze.

SHAPIRO: And we're just six months away from the Summer Olympics in Paris. What does this case say about the risk of more controversy with Russia?

MANN: Yeah. So this is a big deal. Russian athletes are expected to compete in Paris as neutrals, not allowed to fly their national flag or play their national anthem. That's actually because of the fallout of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Last week Russia appealed that punishment to this same tribunal in Switzerland. But meanwhile, critics say there is a real danger that Russia's doping program is so persistent it could skew results again in Paris and in future Winter Games. Now, on a brighter note, Ari, there is talk that, in Paris, the U.S. figure skaters could finally get their really high-profile gold medal award ceremony. Of course, it would come more than two years after their performance in Beijing.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Brian Mann. Thank you.

MANN: Thank you, Ari.

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