Panel denies U.S. figure skaters’ appeal to get Olympic silver medals

Losing the case means the U.S. skaters will receive their medals months, maybe even years, from now, after Russian skater Kamila Valieva’s doping case winds its way through hearings and appeals.

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Silver medalists Karen Chen and Nathan Chen pose for a photo after the team event in the figure skating competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, in Beijing.

David J. Phillip/AP

BEIJING — Arbitrators have rejected a last-ditch request by American figure skaters to have their silver medals awarded before the end of the Olympics.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said early Sunday in Beijing that it dismissed the appeal by the nine skaters, who finished second in the team event marred by a doping positive from 15-year-old Russian Kamila Valieva.

It did not elaborate on its decision, and said it would release details in upcoming days. The panel, with arbitrators from Denmark, France and China, met for 2 1/2 hours Saturday evening.

In an earlier decision, CAS had allowed Valieva to compete in the women’s event after her doping positive went public following the Russians’ victory in the team event. The International Olympic Committee responded by saying that no medals would be awarded in any event in which Valieva finished in the top three.

Losing the case means the U.S. skaters will receive their medals months, maybe even years, from now, after Valieva’s case winds its way through hearings and appeals. She led the Russians to a convincing victory in the team event. If that result is overturned, the U.S. would get gold medals.

The skaters had argued, without success, that they should at least receive the silvers before Sunday night’s closing ceremony. In a letter sent to IOC President Thomas Bach that was obtained by The Associated Press, the skaters’ attorney argued that the IOC’s “own rules mandate that a victory ceremony ‘to present medals to the athletes shall follow the conclusion of each sports event.’”

“We’re disappointed in the decision. It’s unfortunate that these deserving athletes will leave Beijing without their medals,” said Ramsey Baker, executive director of US Figure Skating. “We are proud of the historic accomplishments of our team and we look forward to joining them, their families and friends, and the entire United States in celebrating their achievements from these Olympic Games.”

A few hours before the decision, the U.S. team of Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier finished sixth in the pairs event. They are among the skaters who would receive the medals from the team event. After they skated Saturday, Frazier said “they should have a ceremony for the clean athletes that delivered. They deserve that.”

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Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, of the United States, compete in the pairs free skate program during the figure skating competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, in Beijing.

Bernat Armangue/AP

In the letter to Bach, attorney Paul Greene wrote “a dignified medal ceremony from our clients’ vantage point is one in the Medals Plaza as originally planned and afforded to all other medalists.”

Instead, the skaters could end up with Olympic torches. In a meeting with the skaters earlier this week, Bach offered the torches as keepsakes while the doping case plays out. He later said at a news conference that they were not meant to replace the medals.

Valieva might never get anything. She finished fourth in the women’s event — crying as she left the ice, then criticized by her coach after a mistake-filled long program.

After her test became public, Russia’s anti-doping agency at first put her on provisional suspension, then lifted the suspension. That triggered the IOC and World Anti-Doping Agency to lead an appeal to CAS, which acted swiftly and said Valieva could still compete. This time, CAS ruled in favor of the IOC.

Neither decision, however, resolves the larger question about the result from the team competition.

Because she is 15, Valieva is considered a “protected person” under anti-doping rules, and is not expected to receive a harsh penalty. Her coaches and doctors are being investigated by Russian and world anti-doping authorities.

Pells reported from Zhangjiakou, China. Associated Press writers Dave Skretta and Aaron Morrison contributed to this report.

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