BEIJING (AFP) – Thomas Bach said yesterday 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 (IOC) president said 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 coldness” 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.
Bach told a news conference: “When I afterwards saw how she was received by her closest entourage with what appeared to be such a tremendous coldness, it was chilling to see this.”
The doping affair will rumble on long after the Games have ended, and Valieva could yet be punished.
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 said 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.”
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.
Valieva’s predicament has also focussed attention once more on Russian athletes at Olympic Games and the IOC’s decision to allow Russians supposedly 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.