ZHANGJIAKOU, China — American figure skaters whose Olympic silver medals are withheld have filed an appeal to have them awarded before the end of the Beijing Games, with a decision expected before the closing ceremony.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport confirmed to The Associated Press that it was hearing the case on Saturday evening in Beijing and expected a quick decision.
In a letter sent to IOC President Thomas Bach, a copy of which was obtained by AP, the skaters’ lawyers said they were seeking a decision before Sunday’s closing ceremony.
Kamila Valieva led the Russian team to victory in the team event last week, and the United States finished second. Shortly after, a positive doping test for the 15-year-old skater was leaked. CAS allowed her to continue skating in the women’s event, but the International Olympic Committee said it would not award medals in events where she finished in the top three.
She finished fourth in the women’s event – crying as she walked off the ice, then slammed by her coach after a long, error-filled programme.
This case concerns the team event held the previous week. The Russians won the event by a wide margin. Japan finished third and Canada finished fourth. None of these countries were involved in the appeal, which named the IOC as a defendant.
The US team of Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier finished sixth in the pairs event. Afterwards, Frazier said “they should have a ceremony for the clean athletes who delivered. They deserve it.”
Frazier and Knierim are among nine U.S. skaters who will receive medals, although neither was directly involved in the appeal as they prepared for Saturday night’s competition.
The letter sent on behalf of the American finalists states that “the IOC’s own rules require that a victory ceremony ‘to present medals to athletes follow the conclusion of each sporting event'”.
At a meeting earlier this week with the skaters, Bach presented them with Olympic torches as a souvenir while the doping case, which could take months or even years, unfolds.
In their letter to Bach, the lawyers said they hoped the IOC would reconsider but due to the urgency they were filing the appeal.
U.S. Figure Skating Executive Director Ramsey Baker sent the AP a statement of support for the skaters.
“Having a medal ceremony at the Olympics is not something that can be replicated anywhere else, and they should be celebrated in front of the world before they leave Beijing,” Baker said.
The letter to Bach, sent by lawyer Paul Greene, who represents athletes in doping cases and other cases against Olympic authorities, says the IOC president has asked the athletes for their opinion.
“A medal ceremony worthy of our customers’ perspective is taking place in Medal Plaza, as originally planned and offered to all other medal winners,” he wrote.
After Valieva’s test became public knowledge, the Russian anti-doping agency first placed her on provisional suspension, then lifted the suspension. This prompted the IOC and World Anti-Doping Agency to appeal to CAS, which acted quickly and said Valieva could still compete.
This did not resolve the larger question of the outcome of the team competition.
Team USA should get some sort of medal out of it – either the second place they’re aiming for this weekend, or a gold medal that could become theirs if the Russians are disqualified because of Valieva’s doping case.
Because she is 15, Valieva is considered a “protected person” under anti-doping rules and should not receive a harsh sanction. His coaches and doctors are under investigation by Russian and global anti-doping authorities.
Associated Press writers Graham Dunbar, Dave Skretta and Aaron Morrison contributed to this report.
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