University of Toronto expert on Beijing Games doping scandal


Russian teenager Kamila Valieva has been cleared to compete in women’s figure skating competition at the Winter Olympics despite failing a drug test ahead of the Games. A panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has ruled that the 15-year-old – the favorite for the women’s individual gold medal – does not need to be provisionally suspended pending a full investigation.

Valieva tested positive for the heart drug trimetazidine at the Russian national competition in December, but the lab result only emerged a week ago – only after helping the Russian Olympic Committee win team gold.

In allowing Valieva to compete in Beijing, the arbitrators said they “believe that preventing the athlete from competing in the Olympics would cause her irreparable harm in these circumstances.” The panel noted that Valieva is underage and did not test positive in Beijing, but in December.

The decision allows Valieva to skate in the women’s singles event on Thursday, but the International Olympic Committee said no medals would be awarded in events in which Valieva placed in the top three until her case was decided. resolved.

The IOC also said there would be no ceremony for the team event won by Valieva and the Russian team a week ago because “it would not be appropriate”.

The decision to withhold medals affects clean athletes, who may leave Beijing without having their place on the podium or knowing their standings. The case could have implications for Canada, which could move from fourth place to bronze in the team event.

Doug Richard, an associate professor, teaching stream at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, shared his thoughts on the controversy. Richards was medical director of the university’s David L. MacIntosh Sports Medicine Clinic for more than 30 years and served as a team physician for the University of Toronto Varsity Blues intercollegiate teams, Canadian women’s basketball teams and beach volleyball and the Toronto Raptors. He was also Chief Medical Officer of the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario.

What is trimetazidine and how can it improve an athlete’s performance?

Trimetazidine is the generic name for a drug sold under several different brand names in various jurisdictions.

It is not widely prescribed in North America, but perhaps used a little more in Europe. In clinical settings, it is sometimes used as an adjunctive or secondary treatment for angina pectoris, a symptom of myocardial ischemia (limited blood flow to the heart muscle). Clinical trials have not shown it to have any substantial benefit in such treatment, which is why it is not widely prescribed.

It has an interesting and complex mechanism of action that involves inhibiting one of the enzymes involved in fatty acid metabolism in the mitochondria, thereby increasing the utilization of glucose as muscle fuel. It has been shown in some well-controlled research to improve heart and muscle performance in low oxygen environments, such as at altitude, at least with short-term use.

Because of this perceived performance-enhancing ability, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) added trimetazidine to its list of banned substances in 2014 – initially as a stimulant – later moving it to the category of hormones. and metabolic modulators. Its use is prohibited at all times in sport – in-competition and out-of-competition.

Why was there such a long delay between Valieva’s test in December and the announced result? It’s usual ?

Excellent question. To my knowledge, A sample results usually don’t take long to process. This raises suspicion of suppression of an Adverse Analytical Finding (an AAR is a positive test). It may have something to do with her legal status as a minor (protected person) under WADA rules, but I would still expect a quick announcement from an AAF without athlete identification, and that doesn’t matter. is not produced for unknown reasons.

Valieva is one of the youngest Olympians to fail doping control. What is your opinion on how this could have happened?

It is inconceivable that such a drug was prescribed to a 15 year old for legitimate medical reasons – myocardial ischemia is unheard of in normal 15 year olds, let alone an extremely athletic superstar. And, I haven’t seen any allegations that she took it for legitimate reasons – there are no reports that she applied for a medical exemption for a banned substance. So we can assume that if the reports of her Adverse Analytical Finding (positive test) are true, she was taking it for performance enhancement and not for medical purposes.

In this context, it is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a 15-year-old independently researching, sourcing and self-administering this unusual, rarely used, WADA-banned drug in order to increase its performance capacity. Of course, someone else has to be involved. The question is how far this involvement goes in the hierarchy of the Russian sports system.

What do you think of the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)?

This week’s CAS decision does not address the merits or merits of the case; it’s strictly procedural. They decided that she should be allowed to compete pending the outcome of the investigation into the merits of the case, which would include an analysis of the B sample and hearings at which the parties involved can present evidence to the anti-doping agency and the international sports federation with jurisdiction.

So Valieva can skate in Beijing and, if she wins, whether she gets or keeps her medals will depend on the future outcome of a process that includes further investigation, hearings and possibly the administration of sanctions.

In my opinion, if she is ultimately found guilty of an anti-doping rule violation that occurred two months ago, she should be suspended and all medals won in Beijing should be voided.

However, Anti-Doping Agencies (ADAs) and International Sports Federations (ISFs) – not to mention the Court of Arbitration for Sport, before which decisions of ADAs and ISFs can be appealed – have wide leeway. action on anti-doping sanctions. rule violations (ADRVs), including the administration of simple warnings without meaningful penalties. I think such leniency should be reserved for cases where there is compelling evidence that the athlete was an unwitting and uninformed dupe of others who manipulated him; but sanctions should then be administered to these parties – and this is not always the case.


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