Star's Flunked Drug Test Delays Skaters' Medals: Reports

Russian newspapers say Kamila Valieva, 15, tested positive for banned heart drug
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 9, 2022 10:45 AM CST
Updated Feb 9, 2022 7:45 PM CST
Vague 'Legal Issues' Delay Team Figure-Skating Medals
Team USA silver medalists pose for a group photo following the victory ceremony after the team event in the figure skating competition at the Winter Olympics on Monday in Beijing.   (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

(Newser) Updated: This file has been updated with reports of a positive drug test on the Russian team. The winners in the team figure-skating competition at the Beijing Olympics still haven't received their medals two days later because of what the International Olympic Committee said are "legal issues." Russian newspapers reported Wednesday that the reason is a star of the gold medal-winning Russian team tested positive for a banned drug, per Reuters. Kamila Valieva, 15, tested positive for trimetazidine in November, RBC and Kommersant reported, but the results weren't known until after she skated in Beijing. The drug often is used to treat angina, per the AP.

The drug, called TMZ, is not approved for use in the US. It increases blood flow to the heart and curbs rapid swings in blood pressure. There's no evidence that it helps an athlete's performance. A cardiologist at Northwestern University theorized about how TMZ might help, while cautioning that it could have side effects; the risks are unknown for anyone, much less a 15-year-old. "The idea behind it would be potentially if you enhance blood flow, you could improve somebody's ability to exercise longer or exercise more efficiently by allowing the heart to respond super-normally," Dr. Sadiya Khan said.

It's not known if Valieva has any heart issues, per the AP. She provided the standout performance in the competition, becoming the first female skater to land a quad jump at an Olympics. Also, American Vincent Zhou tested positive for COVID-19 after his free skate Sunday. If any athlete and team were disqualified or had their results nullified, an appeal would likely follow, which could further delay the medals presentation. The US team won silver and the Japanese bronze. Canada placed fourth Monday and would be in line to be upgraded onto the podium if a team ahead of it is disqualified.

(Read more 2022 Olympics stories.)

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