BEIJING (Reuters) – The drug scandal engulfing 15-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva is inhumane and the adults responsible should be banned forever, skating legend Katarina Witt said.
“What they knowingly did to her, if true, cannot be surpassed in inhumanity and makes my athlete’s heart cry infinitely,” said Witt, an Olympic champion in 1984 and 1988.
Valieva on Monday won Olympic gold with her Russian team mates, but it was revealed on Friday that she had earlier failed a drug test, and Olympic officials are now fighting Russia’s decision to let her compete.
The 15-year-old’s gold medal and Games future now hangs in the balance as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) attempts to draw a line in the sand over Russian doping.
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.
But her dream debut turned to a nightmare when the International Testing Agency said she had tested positive for a banned angina drug in a urine sample collected by Russian authorities at the national championships in St Petersburg on Dec. 25.
Witt pointed the finger at her entourage.
“Those latest terrible Olympic skating news, have honestly touched me. Kamila Valieva is a young girl and child prodigy, whose highly difficult performances and grace enchanted the whole world at only 15, a minor, depending on adults and she is not to blame here,” the German skating icon wrote on her Facebook page.
“This scandal is a dramatic turning point for her young and promising career and I sincerely hope that there are enough people by her side to support, to protect and encourage her.”
Witt, 56, insisted that Valieva could not be held responsible for the teenager’s failed test.
“As an athlete, you always follow the advice of your confidants, in this case she probably followed her coach and medical team,” she said.
“It is a shame, and the responsible adults should be banned from the sport forever!!!
“I admire Kamila as a radiant star, who burst into the orbit of the international skating world, and I still very much wish she has come to stay.”
Russia won the team event at the Beijing Olympics on Monday, but the medal ceremony on Wednesday was delayed for legal reasons amid reports of the failed drug test.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Michael Perry and Richard Pullin)