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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Vladimir Putin defends Kamila Valieva and hits out at bans on Russian athletes | Kamila Valieva

Vladimir Putin has expressed support for Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, saying she did not compete “dishonestly” after her doping case dominated this year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Valieva was part of the gold-medal winning Russian squad for the figure skating team event at the Beijing Olympics but no medal ceremony has yet been held. That is because she is facing an unresolved doping case, resulting from a positive test at the Russian national championships in late December.

“Through her work, she raised the sport to the level of true art,” Putin said of Valieva. “It is impossible to achieve that kind of perfection dishonestly, with the help of some kind of extra substances or manipulations.”

The Russian president presented Valieva with a state award as part of a televised ceremony celebrating the country’s medalists in Beijing. “It’s a big honour for me,” said Valieva, who celebrated her 16th birthday on Tuesday.

After Valieva’s positive drug test came to light during the Olympics, she faced a possible suspension from competition until the case was resolved, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) allowed her to continue competing. The speculation appeared to affect her as she struggled in her final routine, finishing fourth in the women’s competition as her fellow Russian, Anna Shcherbakova, skated to gold.

Russia competed at the Beijing Olympics without its flag or anthem following years of doping sanctions and legal battles across numerous sports. Russia denies any doping was state-sponsored.

Putin also hit out at the wave of suspensions affecting Russian athletes, calling the nine-month suspension of the Olympic champion swimmer Evgeny Rylov “absurd”, and adding that blanket bans on Russian and Belarusian athletes were discrimination based on nationality.

Swimming’s governing body, Fina, last week suspended Rylov for nine months for attending a rally in support of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, a move that drew an angry reaction from the Kremlin and Russian sports officials.

Russian swimmer Evgeny Rylov has been suspended after attending a rally in support of Russia’s campaign in Ukraine.
Russian swimmer Evgeny Rylov has been suspended after attending a rally in support of Russia’s campaign in Ukraine. Photograph: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, athletes and teams from Russia and its ally Belarus have been excluded from many international sports events. On Tuesday, Wimbledon defended its decision to ban players from both countries from this year’s event, while Russia was stripped of the rights to host upcoming ice hockey and figure skating competitions.

Ice hockey’s governing body, the IIHF, has announced that next year’s world championship will be moved away from St Petersburg, with an alternate host set to be announced during this year’s world championship, which will take place in Finland. The International Skating Union (ISU) said on Monday that Russia and Belarus would not be allowed to host any international skating events in the current climate.

Putin has said Russia should set up their own events in their place. “The cancelled competitions need to be compensated with our own new formats. And we can get it done fast,” he said, adding that Russia should invite “international athletes, clubs [and] teams” to take part.

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