TRINIDAD AND Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis has condemned the handling of 15-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva’s doping violation at the Winter Olympic Games, calling the debacle “child abuse” and “systemic failure”.
Despite Valieva testing positive for a banned substance at an event in Russia in December, the Court of Arbitration cleared her for competition at the Games.
A CNN report said that, “Valieva’s case may or may not set a precedent for the future, CAS cited Valieva’s age, which makes her a ‘protected person’, as well as what the body describes as ‘very limited facts – including the ‘serious and untimely notification’ that prevented Valieva from putting together any kind of defence.
“They (CAS) also expressed concern about causing the skater “irreparable harm’ if she were not made eligible.”
Multiple online reports said that CAS eventually cleared her to compete in the individual free skate event on Thursday.
At the centre of the doping controversy, she struggled mightily through her free skate routine, stumbled or fell at least four times, then missing the podium in the women's single figure skating.
Although a favourite for gold, the teenager placed fourth and was left in tears after her performance as she was comforted by her coaches.
Valieva’s doping violation, followed by persmission from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to compete amidst it all, caused an international media firestorm.
“I felt that that Olympic Movement and system let this 15-year old down, as a child," said Lewis. "Maybe because she was a Russian and they have issues with Russia. What people lost sight of the fact is that she was a 15-year-old.
“What she was subjected to was child abuse and nothing to do with athlete welfare. It was terrible. To subject any human being, far less a child, to that, my view is that the entire system, the leaders and IOC have to take responsibility, they cannot push around the blame,” he added.
Lewis believes that no one placed focus on the welfare and mental health of the athlete.
He even questioned whether a 15-year-old should be competing in such an environment, at the highest level, regardless of how exceptional a talent they may be. Lewis made these remarks on the grounds of the mental and emotional trauma Valieva faced and is still facing.
“It will lead to very deep and profound questioning and soul searching," Lewis said. "Those new urban sports like skateboarding etc, where you have younger athletes competing, the question of the appropriateness of young people/children, their welfare, of whether the environment and the ultra-competitiveness of it, lends itself to child abuse, emotional and mental abuse?”
Lewis, however, thinks western media may have used thise situation to “score a point against Russia” owing to the nation’s current border crisis with Ukraine.
“The western media seemed to place the fact that it was an opportunity to make a point against Russia at the expense of the child," said the TTOC president. "It was almost as if she was collateral damage.
“It didn’t matter to people who wanted to make a point against Russia and the IOC. It’s a systemic failure. The question is, should this have happened?”