‘Chilling’: IOC president criticizes Valieva’s treatment by her coaches

Kamila Valieva of Russia reacts after falling during the women’s free skate at the Winter Olympics in Beijing on Thursday, February 17, 2022. (Photo: NYTimes)
The president of the International Olympic Committee on Friday called the treatment of a teenage Russian figure skater by her coaches “chilling” a day after the skater, Kamila Valieva, tumbled out of medal contention at the Beijing Olympics with an error-strewn performance in the women’s singles competition. The comments quickly drew an angry response from a top Russian government official.اضافة اعلان

Breaking his silence on the Valieva case more than a week after it was first revealed that the 15-year-old skater had tested positive for a banned drug, the president, Thomas Bach, shared at a news conference in Beijing that he had been uncomfortable watching the young Olympian melt down during her free skate Thursday night. Valieva had entered the night as the gold medal favorite but stumbled and fell repeatedly to fall to fourth place and miss out on a medal entirely.

“I was very very disturbed yesterday when I watched the competition on TV,” Bach said a day after the end of women’s competition. The remarks were his first public comments on Valieva’s case since the news of her positive test early last week became the dominant storyline of the Games.

“You could feel that this is an immense, immense mental stress," Bach added, "and maybe she would have preferred to leave the ice and to leave this story behind her.”

Russia’s deputy prime minister quickly responded, saying Bach’s comments were “inappropriate and wrong.”

Valieva, whose Olympics became a crucible of expectations, innuendo and pressure after it was revealed she had failed a doping test before the Games, was in tears after her performance. Her anguish only grew when she left the ice and her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, immediately began interrogating her in Russian in a scene that was captured by television cameras.

“Why did you stop fighting?” Tutberidze asked. “Explain it to me, why? You let it go after that axel.”

Valieva did not reply.

Bach said it was “chilling” to see the coldness with which Valieva was received by Tutberidze and other Russian skating officials after her performance.

“All of this does not give me confidence in this entourage of Kamila,” Bach said, “neither with regard to what happened in the past, nor as far as it concerns the future.”

In an emailed statement, Russia’s deputy prime minister, Dmitry Chernyshenko, said he was “deeply disappointed” to see Bach “weave his own fictional narrative on the feelings of our athletes, and then present these publicly as the voice of IOC.”

Bach and Chernyshenko know each other well. Chernyshenko was the president of the local organizing committee for the 2014 Sochi Games, and he was on an Olympic organizing committee for the Beijing Games before he was removed after Russia’s state-sanctioned doping scheme at the Sochi Games was revealed.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport allowed Valieva to continue competing in the Olympics despite having tested positive for a banned substance, a heart medication, several weeks before the Games. The court made the decision in large part, it said in a report released Thursday, because of a failure by a Stockholm laboratory to process her sample quickly. She still could face penalties, however, though it could take months to fully resolve her case.