Former Olympian and Olympics commentator for NBC, Johnny Weir, condemned the controversial decision that allowed embattled skater Kamila Valieva to compete on behalf of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in the Beijing Winter Olympics after she tested positive for a banned heart medication meant to boost athletic endurance.
When Valieva failed to medal, dropping from first to fourth place, after stumbling twice during her final routine on Thursday, Weir and former 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski offered commentary that conveyed both frustration and sympathy.
Weir described the 15-year-old skater's emotional situation and failing to place in the top three, “the destruction of a young person.”
Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski nailed the delicate balance of anger and sympathy as the Russian teen failed to medal. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/tara-lipinski-johnny-weir-kamila-valieva-long-program-final_n_620e4f3fe4b097efdfbd0ffa?utm_campaign=share_twitter&ncid=engmodushpmg00000004\u00a0\u2026 via @HuffPostSports— jane hartrick (@jane hartrick) 1645111025
Valieva was embroiled in scandal for being allowed to skate in the women’s individual event despite testing positive for trimetazidine–a performance-enhancing drug listed in the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited substances list.
The 15-year-old's drug test result was not announced until during the medal ceremony for her first team event earlier in the Games.
Yet, the Court of Arbitration for Sport granted her eligibility to continue participating in the free skate–citing Valieva had protected status as a minor.
Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir going completely silent through Kamila Valieva\u2019s short program was a major flex\u2026.no announcing from anyone on the NBC panel. A positive test is just that, regardless if you\u2019re a minor or not. She should not have been on the ice #Olympics— Left Coast Cane (@Left Coast Cane) 1644984301
It was a decision that caused much outrage from among the figure skating community.
Former Olympians Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir condemn the decision to allow Russian skater Kamila Valieva to compete following a failed drug test.\n\n\u201cThis is a slap in the face to the Olympic Games, to our sport, and to every athlete that\u2019s ever competed at the Olympics clean.\u201dpic.twitter.com/tnn8WcPzf4— The Recount (@The Recount) 1644853541
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had previously announced that had Valieva placed in the top three, there would not have been a medal for any of the winning competitors due to the ongoing investigation into Valieva's positive test result for the banned substance.
Since Valieva placed fourth, the medal ceremony went on as planned.
NBC commentator Terry Gannon announced:
"There will be a gold, silver, and a bronze medal in Beijing."
To which, Weir responded:
Lipinski agreed, saying, "Thank goodness for all the other medalists to have that moment."
And Weir added, "And to have done it cleanly."
A natural response and what many were thinking. We don\u2019t want harm for the skater just a fair competition.— Kate Good (@Kate Good) 1645117214
Valieva's participation in the Winter Olympics drew to a somber close after her technically ambitious performance gave way to a series of mistakes.
Set to the music of Ravel's "Bolero," her routine included three quads–an extremely difficult jump maneuver involving four rotations in the air–and seven triples.
At the start, an adoring crowd cheered her on as she made her way onto the ice and performed the routine with grace and aplomb. But then, her confidence unraveled when she stumbled twice–one of which landed her on the ice.
When it was over, the emotional athlete buried her teary face in her hands and walked through the mixed zone without stopping or speaking to reporters.
She finished in fourth with a 141.93 in the free skate.
After the scores were announced, Gannon said of Valieva:
"And here's hoping there is someone to put their arms around that young woman and guide her."
Pretty impressed with Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir here, and with their comments after Valieva's skate last night. They're absolutely right.https://twitter.com/therecount/status/1493250096917536773\u00a0\u2026— ElleK (@ElleK) 1645020675
“On a human level, I can’t imagine going through what she has been through. But that doesn’t change the fact that she should have been nowhere near this competition.”
Weir blamed Russian officials for Valieva's emotional turmoil and overshadowing controversy at the Winter Games, adding they “should have shielded her from this, kept her from competing here.”
Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski have honestly done a tremendous job in covering figure skating this week, in the wake of Valieva\u2019s positive drug test. They have been firm in their stance that she should be unable to compete, but sympathetic to Valieva at the same time.— Gina (@Gina) 1645107589
Johnny & Tara have also been sympathetic towards the difficult and unfair position in which other athletes competing have been placed. They\u2019ve been firm in protecting the dignity of their sport, while reminding audiences that the parties involved are teens without much autonomy.— Gina (@Gina) 1645110551
Yes agreed they did a great job of being compassionate but straightforward. And honestly, the most sympathetic everyone could have done was not let her compete. I'm sure her own teammates were annoyed at her because she could have potentially cost them their medals.— MelPC (@MelPC) 1645109190
In response to the backlash from Valieva's failed drug test result from December 25, 2021, ROC president Stanislav Pozdnyakov said in a statement:
“The results of the team tournament are not subject to revision under any circumstances, regardless of the results of the disciplinary investigation against the athlete."
“Anti-doping rules are formulated in such a way that the revision of the results in the team tournament could take place only if the alleged anti-doping violation had been committed during the Olympic Games.”
Lipinski, who was Valieva's age when she won gold in 1998, said:
“I can’t imagine how tough this has been on Kamila and it makes me angry that the adults around her couldn’t make better decisions."
“She’s the one now dealing with the consequences. And she’s just a teen and that’s not fair. ... That being said, she should not have been allowed to skate in this Olympic event.”
They have been excellent, all the way through. Their commentary is always spot on.— C\u1d63\u2090\u2099\u2096y G\u1d63\u2090\u2099d\u2098a Saying Gay (@C\u1d63\u2090\u2099\u2096y G\u1d63\u2090\u2099d\u2098a Saying Gay) 1645110434
Yes! They've done an extraordinary job in striking that balance. And with such grace.— ReinventionRebels (@ReinventionRebels) 1645131281
Valieva’s ROC teammates Anna Shcerbakova and Alexandra Trusova stepped onto the podium at the medal ceremony.
Shcerbakova received gold and Trusova was awarded the silver medal.
Japan's Kaori Sakamoto placed third, earning her the bronze medal.
Weir took to Twitter and posted a video following Thursday's free skate live coverage, which he called a "bizarre and heartbreaking event I've seen in my entire life."
"I hope that it's never repeated, but thank you for supporting the skaters. Thank you," said Weir.