Kamila Valieva scandal sparks discussions over age limit for Olympic athletes


International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has revealed that an age limit could be imposed on athletes following the Kamila Valieva doping scandal.

Bach told reporters during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics that the IOC Executive Board was discussing the possibility of introducing an age cap for athletes.

The conversation was sparked by the doping scandal involving 15-year-old figure skater Valieva.

There is currently no official age limit for participating in the Olympic Games. In fact, the average age of skaters at Tokyo 2020 was just over 14.

“There are problems to be solved,” Bach said. “It concerns the problems of minors in senior competition.

“We have already started thinking about this within the IOC Executive Board, but this requires extensive deliberation and consultation on two fronts.

“One concerns the World Anti-Doping Agency, to see if it is necessary to adapt the rules. The other stakeholders are the International Federations on the question of whether the establishment of a minimum age for participation is a appropriate measure.

“It is for the International Federations, but we will initiate this reflection and give them food for thought.”

Valieva was confirmed to have tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine at the Russian Figure Skating Championships in St Petersburg in December.

The sample was only analyzed by a laboratory accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency on February 8, however, after the athlete had already helped Russia win a gold medal in the figure skating event by team.

Valieva was cleared to compete in the women’s singles competition after the Court of Arbitration for Sport decided not to impose a provisional suspension on her again.

But she failed to finish on the podium, repeatedly stumbling in the free skate to place fourth instead. Valieva was visibly emotional after the competition.

Bach confirmed that he watched the event on TV and criticized Valieva’s entourage for being “cold” during the competition.

“I was very disturbed yesterday when I watched the competition on TV,” he said. “I saw how much pressure must have been on her, this pressure is beyond my imagination.

“Especially for a 15-year-old girl, to see her struggle on the ice, to see how she tries to pull herself together and finish her program.

“You could see in the body language, it was immense mental stress. Maybe she would have preferred to get off the ice and leave the story behind her.

“When I saw how she was received by those around her, but what seemed like enormous coldness, it was chilling to see that.

“Rather than trying to help her, you could feel that chilling atmosphere, that distance. If you interpret the body language, it’s even worse.

Due to Valieva’s status as a protected person under WADA’s code, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency and WADA have opened investigations into Valieva’s entourage.

Bach confirmed that “very strong action” would be taken if wrongdoing was discovered.

“All of this doesn’t give me much confidence in Kamila’s entourage as far as the past is concerned or as far as the future is concerned,” he said. “How to deal, how to deal with underage 15 year old athletes under such mental stress.

“I can only wish Kamila Valieva that she has the support of her family, friends, people who help her in this extremely difficult situation.”

Valieva is likely to face a full doping hearing after the Games are over, and may well have the gold medal she won in the team event taken away.

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