Russian skater’s strawberry dessert excuse was rejected by judges in Olympic doping case

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PARIS (AP) — A strawberry dessert contaminated by her grandfather’s heart medication might have caused Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva’s positive doping test, her lawyers argued at sport’s highest court, which rejected the explanation and banned her for four years.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport on Wednesday published the 129-page detailed ruling from its three judges to explain why they imposed the ban last week on Valieva, whose doping case at age 15 stunned the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

The word “strawberry” features 43 times in the document that details why the judges rejected the argument.

The CAS judges were asked to believe that Valieva’s grandfather “accidentally dropped a pill into the dessert while he was preparing it or because there were crushed residues of a (trimetazidine) tablet on the chopping board he used to prepare the dessert."

“There are too many shortcomings in the evidence, and too many unanswered questions, for the panel to decide that her account is more likely than not,” the judges wrote.

Valieva tested positive for the banned heart medication in a sample given at the Russian championships on Dec. 25, 2021. The test result was not sent from a laboratory in Stockholm, Sweden until six weeks later during the Beijing Olympics.

Valieva had already skated in the team event, helping the Russians win gold, and was allowed to continue competing in the women’s individual competition. Under intense scrutiny, her error-filled free skate dropped her to a fourth-place finish.

Athletes who test positive for doping can escape a ban if they later prove they were not at fault for ingesting a substance.

The explanation from Valieva’s lawyers during the Olympics was that she was accidentally contaminated by her grandfather’s medication at her family’s home in Moscow.

More detail was given when the case came to CAS in appeal hearings held in separate sessions last September and November in Lausanne, Switzerland.

It was suggested in court that Valieva’s grandfather prepared the strawberry dessert in the days before the national championships for her to take with her to St. Petersburg.

“There is no other evidence — beyond his own assertion — that he can provide as to this claim,” the ruling stated. “Nor is there other evidence — beyond his own assertion — that he was using TMZ at the time.”

The CAS judges upheld an appeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency which asked for a four-year ban and disqualification of her results after a Russian tribunal cleared Valieva of blame.

The Russian team was stripped of its Olympic title by the International Skating Union, which declared the United States champions. Japan was upgraded from bronze to silver and the Russians were demoted to bronze after Valieva’s scores were removed.

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AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games