ISU defends its decision to give Russians bronze medal from Beijing Olympics after doping case

The governing body that oversees figure skating defended its decision to award the bronze medal from the 2022 Beijing Olympics to the Russian squad Friday, despite the disqualification of team member Kamila Valieva for a highly publicized doping violation that caused a reshuffling of the medals.

The International Skating Union published an amended standings late last month, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Valieva was at fault for the violation and banned her for four years. But while the ISU stripped the Russians of the 10 points she had earned in each of her two events, it declined to bump up the placement of athletes that finished below her.

That didn’t matter when it came to gold and silver — the United States had enough points to move into first place and Japan had enough to move into second. But it did mean that Canada, which had finished fourth at the Winter Games, was still a single point behind the Russian team in the new ordering, keeping that nation out of the medals in the team event.

“In any complex and extraordinary situation like this, the reallocation of points could negatively affect the relative team ranking, adversely impacting teams that had nothing to do with the incident in question,” the ISU said in a statement Friday.

Skate Canada said it was “extremely disappointed” in the decision and that it was considering its options for an appeal.

The national governing body’s position is that the ISU did not appropriately apply Rule 353, which states “competitors having finished the competition and who initially placed lower than the disqualified competitor will move up accordingly in their placement.” But the ISU dismissed that claim, stating its decision was based “on a comprehensive evaluation from legal experts,” that found Rule 353 did not apply because of “applicable rules and principles that are specific” to the Olympic team event.

“The ISU has remained resolved to ensure that the applicable rules and principles as well as the CAS decision are correctly followed,” its statement read, “and that any changes to the results were applied accordingly.”

Meanwhile, Russian Olympic officials also have vowed to appeal the reordering in an attempt to regain the Olympic title, arguing that ISU rules mean sanctions against Valieva “cannot be the basis for reviewing the results of the team event.”

The final decision on awarding medals remains with the International Olympic Committee, which the head of the United States Olympic and Paralympic body said is “as eager as we are” to get the gold medals to the American skaters.” Several of them have said their hope is that a special ceremony would be held during the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris.

“There is no scenario at this point in which Team USA is not the gold medal winners,” USOPC chief executive Sarah Hirshland told reporters on a recent call, “so we are focused on getting the gold medals awarded.”

The IOC executive board will next meet from March 19-21 in Lausanne, Switzerland, at the same time that Canada is hosting the figure skating world championships in Montreal.

The case has dragged on for years because of its unique and complex circumstances.

Valieva was just 15 when she performed at the Beijing Games, and her protected status as a minor was one of the reasons that a separate CAS panel was persuaded to allow her to skate after a positive test taken before the Olympics came to light.

Valieva’s lawyers argued her positive test for trimetazidine was due to contamination from medication they claimed was being taken by her grandfather. She also was taking two oxygen-boosting medications not banned in sports.

“Upon their return from China we honored these athletes as Olympic champions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said after the CAS decision was announced last month. “We are convinced that they will always remain Olympic champions to us, whatever decisions may be taken in that regard, even unfair ones.”

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