U.S. figure skaters told IOC chief they would have liked to leave Beijing with their medals

Snowboard - Women's Snowboard Halfpipe Final Run 1
FILE PHOTO: 2022 Beijing Olympics – Snowboard – Women’s Snowboard Halfpipe Final Run 1 – Genting Snow Park, Zhangjiakou, China – February 10, 2022. International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach looks on while attending the event. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

February 17, 2022

By Karolos Grohmann

(Reuters) -The U.S. figure skating team told the president of the International Olympic Committee they would have liked to leave the Beijing Games with their figure skating medals won 10 days ago, the U.S. Olympic committee said on Thursday.

With the doping case against teen figure skater Kamila Valieva unresolved, none of the top competitors in the Feb. 7 team event can receive their medals.

The U.S. team finished second behind Valieva and her team mates on the Russian Olympic Committee. Japan were third and Canada fourth.

“We are in the same position relative to medals ceremony as we have been,” the CEO of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), Sarah Hirshland, told reporters. “The athletes have expressed their view that they would like to go home with the medals, albeit at this point with the silver medals.”

“It’s a really frustrating and difficult situation. It’s unfair to these athletes, not only on our team, but all the athletes who show up here and expect the integrity of the competition to be intact, and we did not give it to them and that’s not right.”

IOC spokesman Mark Adams had earlier said that while the Americans had met with Bach, the Japanese team had declined to meet with him.

“I was incredibly proud of our athletes. They were productive and constructive,” Hirshland said.

“It made me proud to be on the same team with those individuals,” she said, without providing more details of the meeting.

Hirshland praised the skills of Valieva as a skater but said the timing in her drugs test from Dec. 25 was a major issue, given her positive test was reported only on Feb. 8, a day after the Russian had helped her Olympic Committee win team gold.

“She is an exceptional skater and there is a chance she will win tonight,” Hirshland said. Valieva is completing the single skating event which she is leading.

“There is a real, serious process that needs to be evaluated and investigated if she wins that indeed fairly. It is frustrating for all of us.”

“I respect and understand due process. But a number of things should and could have happened differently. The most important thing is the timing. It was outside the parametres of what the (World Anti-Doping) code dictates.”

Hirshland also said all athletes should be competing with the same set of rules and having a different set for athletes aged under 16 seemed in appropriate. Valieva has been treated as a ‘protected person’ – a minor – in the process.

When asked if the USOPC had already thought how it would hand the medals to the American athletes once the case was resolved, Hirshland said a number of possibilities were being discussed.

“But we are going to have a heck of a party,” she said.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, Editing by Leela de Kretser, Himani Sarkar and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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