BEIJING (Reuters) – Former U.S. Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon said Russian skater Kamila Valieva’s participation in the Beijing Games after having tested positive for a banned substance was a “complete slap in the face” for clean athletes.
Speaking to Reuters on Wednesday, Rippon said the decision by sport’s highest court to allow the 15-year-old to compete after testing positive for trimetazidine, a banned angina drug, was unfair to other competitors.
“This situation is super unfortunate and it’s also unprecedented that someone with a failed doping test is allowed to compete in the Games,” Rippon said.
“It’s a complete slap in the face to every single athlete who comes here and competes clean.”
Valieva, who finished first in the short programme on Tuesday, tested positive at her national championships on Dec. 25 but the result was not revealed until Feb. 8, after she had already competed at the Beijing Games in the team event.
Valieva will not face a hearing for her doping charge until well after the end of the Games. Olympic officials will not award the medals until the doping case is resolved.
Rippon said Valieva, who is the first woman to land quadruple jumps at the Olympics, must be going through what he said was a “traumatising” experience.
“That is child abuse. They are using the dream of a child as ammunition to pump them up with drugs,” said Rippon, who won bronze with the United States in the team event at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
“Somebody on her team failed her miserably and now she is going through this whole circus and everyone else is suffering along with her.”
The Russians competing in Beijing cannot display their country’s tricolour flag or any national emblems or symbols because of doping sanctions.
Instead of representing Russia, athletes are competing as representatives of the Russian Olympic Committee under the acronym “ROC”. Russia has faced similar restrictions at previous Olympics because of doping offences.
Rippon is in Beijing to coach U.S. skater Mariah Bell, who finished 11th in the short programme on Tuesday and is due to perform her free skate on Thursday.
Rippon said the situation around Valieva and the Russian team had been “incredibly distracting” for other skaters.
“All of these athletes worked their entire lives to make it to the Olympic Games and the only thing they’re being asked about is somebody … who had a failed doping test,” he said. “How is that fair?”
(Additional reporting by Joseph Campbell and Irene Wang; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)