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Bach ‘disturbed’ by Valieva’s Olympic performance

IOC president Thomas Bach said Friday it was “chilling” to see how Kamila Valieva’s coach treated the Russian teenager.

Russia's Kamila Valieva is distraught after her free-skate routine, with coach Eteri Tutberidze to her right. — © AFP
Russia's Kamila Valieva is distraught after her free-skate routine, with coach Eteri Tutberidze to her right. — © AFP
Peter STEBBINGS

IOC president Thomas Bach said Friday it was “chilling” to see how Kamila Valieva’s coach treated the Russian teenager after a doping scandal engulfing the skater culminated in an error-strewn performance at the Beijing Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee chief said that he was “very disturbed” to see the 15-year-old fall several times in Thursday’s women’s figure skating final, as she unravelled and sobbed under the glare of the global spotlight.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is looking into Valieva’s entourage, after the doping controversy tarnished the second week of the Games in the Chinese capital.

“I was very disturbed when I watched it on TV,” Bach said, adding Valieva was treated with “a tremendous coolness” by her coaches after the calamitous free skate routine which saw her finish fourth and miss out on a medal.

The pre-Games favourite for gold was distraught afterwards but Russian coach Eteri Tutberidze was seen demanding to know what had gone wrong as Valieva came off the ice, her head bowed and looking pale.

“Why did you let it go? Why did you let it go? Tell me,” Tutberidze can be heard saying.

Russian coach Eteri Tutberidz talks to Kamila Valieva after the women's single free skating event during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games

Russian coach Eteri Tutberidz talks to Kamila Valieva after the women’s single free skating event during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games – Copyright Russian Defence Ministry/AFP –

Bach told a news conference: “When I saw how she was received by the closest entourage with such a tremendous coolness, it was chilling to see this.”

The doping affair will rumble on long after the Games have ended, and Valieva could yet be punished.

Russia’s Kamila Valieva was clearly upset after her routine on Thursday. — © AFP

The teenager was controversially cleared to carry on at the Games despite failing a test in December for trimetazidine, a drug used to treat angina but which is banned for athletes by WADA because it can boost endurance.

Bach told a news briefing that seeing Valieva’s Russian teammate Alexandra Trusova also highly agitated after her silver medal-winning routine confirmed his concerns about the people around the teenage skaters.

“I was pondering about whether you can be really so cold but when I saw and read today how Alexandra Trusova was being treated, I am afraid that this impression I had last night was not the wrong one,” said Bach.

“All of this does not give me much confidence in this close entourage of Kamila.”

Graphic outlining developments in the doping case of Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva who came fourth in the Olympic women’s competition on February 17. — © AFP

The doping scandal has dominated the second week of an Olympics whose build-up was overshadowed by worries about human rights in China, possible disruption by Covid and environmental concerns — the Games have taken place almost entirely on man-made snow.

The doping affair has also focused attention once more on Russian athletes at Olympic Games and the IOC’s decision to allow Russians deemed clean of doping to participate.

They are taking part in Beijing under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee because Russia as a country is serving a two-year ban as punishment for a state-sponsored doping programme.

Bach said that Valieva had “a drug in her body which obviously should not be in her body.

“The ones who have administered this drug in her body, these are the ones who are guilty,” he said, while also defending the IOC’s actions.

The IOC had challenged a Russian Anti-Doping Agency decision to drop its suspension of Valieva at the Games.

– Another gold for Gu –

Californian-born Chinese freeskier Eileen Gu won her second gold medal of the Olympics and third medal overall, 12 hours after Valieva dissolved under the world spotlight.

Eileen Gu won her third medal, and second gold, of the Games. — © AFP

The 18-year-old Gu’s scintillating victory in the halfpipe confirmed her as the face of the Olympics and was the antidote the Games were crying out for.

Gu, who switched allegiance from the United States to China in 2019, won halfpipe gold with another commanding performance.

Gu went top with a first-run score of 93.25 before extending her lead with 95.25 on her second attempt.

She had the title wrapped up before she even started her third and final run, and she celebrated with her coaches at the top of the halfpipe before making her way down with a relaxed and joyous victory lap.

Canada’s Cassie Sharpe took silver on 90.75 points, while another Canadian Rachael Karker claimed bronze on 87.75.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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