US figure skaters still await medals from Beijing Games
Every once in a while, Nathan Chen and the rest of the American figure skaters who finished second in the team event at the Beijing Olympics will get on a group chat and catch up on everything happening in their lives.
Things that aren’t happening, too, like a medal ceremony for the Winter Games.
Eight months after finishing behind the Russians, the U.S. team has yet to receive its medals or even know whether they will be silver or gold. The Russian Anti-Doping Agency only recently completed its painfully slow investigation into Kamila Valieva, the now-16-year-old wunderkind whose positive doping test that surfaced during the opening week of the Olympics led to its biggest scandal in years.
RUSADA did not reveal the results of its investigation, though it did say the next step would be to hold disciplinary hearings in September or early October. That timeframe has come and gone without any updates.
“That’s probably the hardest part, having no knowledge of the situation,” Chen, who also won individual gold in Beijing, told The Associated Press. “We get updates and it’s always, ‘We have no idea what’s going on.’ That’s super annoying.”
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which was outraged there was no medal ceremony at all during the Beijing Games, continues to push the International Olympic Committee for some kind of resolution in the case.
That probably won’t happen any time soon, though. If Valieva was found to have violated doping rules, she would likely appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. And if she’s cleared, it would be the World Anti-Doping Agency or International Skating Union that presumably would appeal to the highest court in international sport.
It was CAS that ruled during the Olympics that Valieva, whose positive test for an angina medication came from a sample taken the previous December, could continue to compete in the women’s event in Beijing. The heavy favorite cracked under the intense scrutiny, falling several times during her free skate and finishing off the podium.
Sarah Hirshland, the CEO of the USOPC, called the delay in the awarding of medals “an outrageous situation.”
“I’d like to tell you that I’m less mad or less frustrated,” Hirshland said recently. “Our No. 1 priority is to make sure that our Team USA athletes, who are sitting without their medals, know that we haven’t forgotten them.”
It’s a complex case, made even more so because of Valieva’s protected status due to her age. But if she was found to have doped and the decision is upheld through appeals, the entire Russian team could be stripped of gold; Valieva had the highest scores in both the short program and free skate, giving her team the maximum points in the event.
The U.S. team could then be elevated to gold, Japan to silver and the fourth-place Canadians to the bronze medal.
“It’s always on our mind,” said Madison Chock, who along with partner Evan Bates performed their free dance in the team event. “It is what it is. It’s not something within our control at the moment. We just take those little bits of news that we hear and absorb them and let them be.”
For now, Chock and Bates have to shelve their thoughts of Beijing. Just like the pairs team of Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, Chock and Bates are focused on competing this weekend at Skate America near Boston. It’s the first event of the Grand Prix season, and both partnerships are heavily favored to win their events.
Chen is taking the year off, though. So are Olympic teammates Karen Chen and Vincent Zhou, while longtime ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue headed into retirement after the Winter Games.
They might have a little more time to ponder the fate of their Olympic team medals.
“I’m glad I have a really awesome team going through this together,” Nathan Chen said. “We have each other’s backs.”
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