The International Olympic Committee declined on Thursday to elaborate on the "legal issues" behind the postponed medal ceremony for the group skating event, and would specifically not comment on Russian media reports that superstar Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, 15, had tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine.
"Obviously we ask for and hope for the patience and understanding of all the athletes involved here," IOC spokesman Mark Adams told reporters Thursday. "But it is a legal case, and I'm bound by this legal case, and I'm unable to say anything more." Asked about the Valieva doping reports, Adams answered, "I have seen the reports, but I cannot comment on them."
Valieva practiced as usual on Thursday, and neither she nor her Russian teammates would answer any questions. If she were disqualified, her team would lose its gold medal, elevating Team USA to its first-ever gold in the group skating event and giving Japan the silver and Canada the bronze.
Trimetazidine, or TMZ, is a metabolic agent typically used to treat chest pains and vertigo. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned in in 2014 because it can help endurance and increase blood flow efficiency, potentially helping figure skaters and other elite athletes, The Associated Press explains.
A Chinese swimmer and Russian bobsledder were handed bans after testing positive for trimetazidine at the 2014 and 2018 Olympics, respectively. But Valieva's case would be more complicated, in part because she is a minor, given extra privacy rights, and also because the alleged positive sample was taken last month, before the Olympics began. The Russian athletes are competing in Beijing under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee because Russia was banned due to a massive state-sponsored doping operation.
"She is not suspended," Russian figure skating federation spokeswoman Olga Ermolina said of Valieva. Prominent Russian sports journalist Vasily Konov claimed on social media that "the drug trimetazidine does not help an athlete in any way" and only a "minuscule amount" was found in Valieva's blood, urging people to "leave Kamila in peace."
Trimetazidine "is not a drug that you would take accidentally" and "not something that you would expect a 15-year-old to be prescribed," former WADA director general David Howman told Reuters. "It is very disappointing and a real shame that Russians continue to test positive at major events after all that country has gone through."