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Kamila Valieva leads women's short program in first competition since doping ruling

Russian skater takes lead amid doping scandal
Russian skater Kamila Valieva takes lead amid doping scandal 01:51

Russian teen skater Kamila Valieva finished with the highest score in the women's short program Tuesday in her first competition since a ruling cleared her to skate after she failed a drug test ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics.  

Valieva broke into tears after she dazzled with a slew of lutzes and spins, scoring 82.16 and putting her at the top of the women's singles figure skating leaderboard. For a couple of minutes, she put behind the controversy over her eligibility after judges ruled Monday that she could continue to compete in the Olympics. The skater tested positive for a banned heart medication, trimetazidine, in Russia in December, but her test result only came to light last week. 

Beijing Olympics Figure Skating
Kamila Valieva, of the Russian Olympic Committee, reacts in the women's short program on Tuesday. David J. Phillip / AP

The court said the investigation into the doping offense would take months to resolve and it gave a favorable decision for her in part because she was a minor or "protected person," making her subject to different rules from an adult athlete. The decision drew condemnation from USOPC president Sarah Hirshland and accusations of racial bias from American sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson, who wasn't allowed to run in the Tokyo Olympics because she tested positive for THC – an ingredient found in marijuana. 

An Olympic official shed more light on the ruling Tuesday, saying there was a mix-up with her grandfather's heart medication. 

"She presented elements which brought some doubts about her guilt, and also she was in a very special situation that the Olympic Games take place only every four years and if she would miss the competition at this Games, the damage could not be repaired," said Denis Oswald, the permanent chair of the International Olympic Committee's disciplinary commission. 

The issue made headlines after a medal ceremony delay in the women's team figure skating competition, where Russia finished in first – in part because of Valieva's strong performance. The IOC has since said there would be no medal ceremony for the event and there would be no medal ceremony if Valieva places in the top three in the women's individual figure skating. 

On Tuesday, Valieva's teammate Anna Shcherbakova, who was the 2021 world champion of figure skating, took second. Japan's Kaori Sakamoto prevented a Russia sweep, finishing third. Among the other standout Tuesday performances, Alysa Liu, the youngest American on Team USA in Beijing, finished in 8th place. Teammates Mariah Bell and Karen Chen took 11th and 13th, respectively. 

Twenty-five of the top 30 skaters will move onto the free skate round Thursday – the second part of the women's singles figure skating competition. Zhu Yi, the figure skater who gave up her American citizenship to compete for China and was widely criticized for falling during her debut Olympic performances, finished in 27th place. 

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