BEIJING (Reuters) – Russian ice dancer Gleb Smolkin said on Monday the coach at the centre of a doping scandal at the Beijing Games was “supportive and helpful”, at times giving him and his dancing partner – the coach’s daughter – advice on their skating.
Eteri Tutberidze, the highly sought-after coach known for her harsh training methods, is part of the entourage likely to be investigated in connection with her 15-year-old protege Kamila Valieva’s positive doping test, which came to light last week.
Valieva’s competition, due to start on Tuesday, had been billed as a highlight of the Games before the scandal blew up and threw her participation into doubt. A decision is due within hours.
Smolkin, also speaking on behalf of his hearing-imparied dancing partner and the coach’s daughter, Diana Davis, called Tutzeridze “one of the best coaches in figure skating” whose advice they occasionally sought by sending video clips.
Tutberidze is not their official coach but was at rink-side when the pair warmed up to compete in the ice dance finals on Monday.
“Diana feels more calm when Eteri supports her because first of all she’s her mum,” Smolkin told reporters after they performed. “She’s very supportive, she’s very helpful.”
Smolkin appeared weary as he fielded a barrage of questions about the impending decision in Valieva’s doping case and the mood of the Russian Olympic Committee team, stressing that he and Davis had been focused on their competition.
“We’re all concentrating on what we have to do. We’re going to support our ice dancers, our national team. They’re one of the best in the world,” he said.
“We don’t think about it … We wish Kamila all the best and we’re going to be very supportive. It doesn’t matter what the decision is going to be,” he said. “We’re tired of these questions.”
(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Robert Birsel)