Russia may need an Olympic “timeout” as doping issues resurface after figure skating prodigy Kamila Valieva tested positive for a banned substance at the Beijing Winter Games, senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound said.
Russian athletes at the Beijing Games are already not competing under their flag while carrying the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) on their uniforms, and their anthem is not being played at any ceremonies, following sanctions imposed for the widespread doping across many sports exposed after the Sochi Games.
The 15-year-old Valieva became an early darling of the Beijing Games when she became the first woman to land a quadruple jump at the Olympics and helped the ROC win a team gold.
However, the International Testing Agency (ITA) said she tested positive for banned heart drug Trimetazidine in a urine sample collected by Russian authorities on Dec. 25.
The Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA imposed a provisional suspension on Valieva on Tuesday then lifted it a day after on appeal.
The IOC, International Skating Union (ISU) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have said they will ask the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to reinstate the suspension.
“At a certain point if they are absolutely incorrigible you end up with the position of take a country timeout,” said Pound in a phone interview from Florida. “We could say we can help you. You got a problem. We can concentrate on it. Take a time out for one or two, or three Olympic Games until you get this under control.”
Russia has acknowledged some shortcomings in its implementation of anti-doping rules, but denies running a state-sponsored doping programme.
“The Russians don’t help themselves because they have been absolutely unrepentant,” said Pound. “They won’t admit anything, they appeal every single decision.”
“I think the approach probably has been too lenient to allow them to compete as the Russian Olympic Committee.”
Valieva’s failed drug test has reawakened global anger over Moscow’s doping history and outrage over how a minor came to have a prohibited drug in her system.
“There are all kinds of things going on and I’m sure the Russians have lawyered up and are trying anything and everything to control the damage,” said Pound. “But how could you have possibly exposed her to that risk.
“This is not like a tainted supplement this is a non-therapeutic use of a fairly potent drug.”
Pound said efforts to work with Russia and appease them have not worked and a different approach to the problem may be necessary.
“It’s sort of appeasement, I forget who described it this way but appeasement is sort of like feeding the alligators and hoping you will be the last one they eat,” he said.