Banned Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva has blamed her positive doping test on a strawberry dessert prepared by her grandfather on a chopping board he used to crush his pills.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has now published its full report on its verdict, justifying its ban on the athlete, who claimed the food was inadvertently contaminated by her grandfather’s heart medication.
The word “strawberry” featured 43 times in the document detailing why the judges rejected her argument.
Valieva was 15 when she found herself at the centre of a doping scandal.
News she had tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine during the Russian national championships in December 2021 emerged during the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.
She had been among the favourites for the individual Olympic gold medal, having already won the team gold, after competing under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee.
Valieva proposed three possible explanations for the positive test, all of which revolved around a strawberry dessert she claimed her grandfather, Gennaidy Solovyov, gave her the night before she left for St Petersburg.
In submitted evidence, Valieva referenced her grandfather’s heart medication and added: “Probably, this pill got into a dessert, which he usually gives to me.
“Or, I saw a few times accidentally, that he crushed the pills with the knife and dissolves them in a glass, and took them. So I might have drunk from the same glass or there, at home, I might have eaten something from the same chopping board and so on.”
But the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), one of three bodies to pursue the CAS verdict along with the International Skating Union (ISU) and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), dismissed the explanation.
According to the judgement, WADA submitted it was “inherently implausible” that an athlete at this elite level would take a homemade strawberry dessert with her across Russia and eat it during a competition period.
WADA also questioned the lack of medical evidence relating to Valieva’s grandfather’s heart condition, saying it was “nearly impossible” for him to have had such a condition “without there being any contemporaneous evidence of it”.
In its verdict, CAS concluded it was “not persuaded” by the explanation because “there are too many shortcomings in the evidence, and too many unanswered questions, for the panel to decide that her account is more likely than not”.
It further found Valieva and her team had not managed to establish that she did not commit the anti-doping rule violation intentionally.
It said the consequence should be a four-year ban, backdated to the time of the failed test, meaning it will run until Christmas Day 2025.
CAS also said Valieva’s age at the time of the doping violation had no bearing on the sanction it should impose, adding there is a burden on athletes of all ages to prove there has been no intention to commit a violation.
All of Valieva’s competition results since the date of the offence have been voided.
She has also forfeited all the medals she has won during her backdated period of disqualification.
This includes the team gold won by Russia in Beijing – which was subsequently awarded to the United States.
Japan was upgraded to silver and the Russians were demoted to bronze after Valieva’s scores were deducted.
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