Beijing (AFP), February 18 – Thomas Bach said on 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-ridden performance at the Olympics in Beijing.
The president of the International Olympic Committee said he was “very disturbed” to see the 15-year-old repeatedly fall and sob during the women’s figure skating final on Thursday.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is investigating Valieva’s entourage, after the doping controversy tarnished the second week of the Games in the Chinese capital and propelled the young skater into the global spotlight.
“I was very disturbed when I watched it on TV,” Bach said, adding that Valieva was treated with “tremendous coldness” by her coaches after the calamitous free skate routine that saw her finish fourth and missing a medal.
The pre-Games favorite for gold was distraught afterwards, but Russian coach Eteri Tutberidze was seen demanding to know what was wrong as Valieva came off the ice with her head bowed and l looked pale.
“Why did you give up? Why did you drop out? Tell me,” Tutberidze can be heard saying.
Bach said at a press conference, “When I next saw how she was received by her closest circle with what seemed like such great coldness, it was chilling to see that.”
The doping case will continue long after the Games are over and Valieva could still be punished.
The teenager was controversially cleared to continue 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 increase stamina.
Bach said seeing Valieva’s Russian teammate Alexandra Trusova also very agitated after her silver medal routine confirmed her worries about the team around teenage skaters.
“I wondered if you could really be that cold but when I saw and read today how Alexandra Trusova was treated I’m afraid that impression I got last night was not the wrong one,” Bach said.
“All this does not give me much confidence in this entourage close to Kamila.”
– Minimum age proposal –
Valieva’s predicament has also once again drawn attention to Russian athletes at the Olympics and the IOC’s decision to allow supposedly doping-free Russians to participate.
They are competing 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 program.
Bach said Valieva had “a drug in her body that obviously shouldn’t be in her body.
“Those who administered this drug in his body, they are the ones who are guilty,” he said, while defending the actions of the IOC.
The Russian Minister of Sports was not impressed by Bach’s intervention.
“It is questionable to say the least to determine and judge the behavior of a coach and to judge the relationship with an athlete on television,” Oleg Matytsin told TASS news agency.
Figure skating’s governing body, the ISU, said in an email to AFP that it would vote later this year on a proposal to raise the minimum age at which figure skaters can compete in senior competitions.
– Another gold medal for Gu –
California-born Chinese freeskier Eileen Gu won her second gold medal at the Olympics and her third medal overall.
The 18-year-old’s brilliant victory in the halfpipe confirmed her as the face of the Olympics and was the antidote the Games were crying out for after Valieva’s plight.
Gu, who switched allegiance from the United States to China in 2019, won halfpipe gold with another impressive performance.
She took the title before she even started her third and final race and celebrated with her trainers atop the halfpipe before coming down with a joyous victory lap.
“It’s been two straight weeks of the most intense ups and downs I’ve ever had in my life,” Gu said of his Games.
“It changed my life forever.”
Finland qualified for the men’s ice hockey final for the first time in 16 years with a 2-0 win over Slovakia.
The Finns will face the winner of Friday’s semi-final between defending champions Russian Olympic Committee and Sweden.
Meanwhile, Bach said the IOC held a meeting with Chinese organizers to remind them to keep politics out of the Olympics, after a local spokeswoman hit back at ‘lies’ about Xinjiang , where China is accused of widespread rights violations.
“Both organizations, BOCOG and the IOC, have reaffirmed their unequivocal commitment to remain politically neutral, as required by the Olympic Charter,” Bach said.