ZHANGJIAKOU, China — The U.S. figure skaters whose Olympic silver medals are being withheld have filed an appeal to have them awarded before the end of the Beijing Games, with a decision expected as soon as Saturday night.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport confirmed to The Associated Press that it was hearing the case Saturday evening in Beijing and expected a rapid ruling.
In a letter sent to IOC president Thomas Bach, a copy of which was obtained by AP, attorneys for the skaters said they sought a ruling before Sunday’s closing ceremony.
Kamila Valieva led the Russian team to a victory in last week’s team event, and the U.S. finished second. Soon after, a positive doping test for the 15-year-old skater was disclosed. CAS allowed her to continue skating at the women’s event, but the International Olympic Committee said it would not award medals in any events in which she finished among the top three.
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.
This case involves the team event held the previous week. The Russians won the event by a large margin. Japan was third and Canada finished fourth.
The letter sent on behalf of the American runners-up says the IOC’s “own rules mandate that a victory ceremony ‘to present medals to the athletes shall follow the conclusion of each sports event.'”
In a meeting earlier this week with the skaters, Bach offered them Olympic torches as something of a holdover memento while the doping case, which could take months, or even years, plays out.
In their letter to Bach, the attorneys said they hoped the IOC would reconsider but that because of the urgency, they were filing the appeal.
U.S. Figure Skating executive director Ramsey Baker sent the AP a statement standing in support of the skaters.
“Having a medal ceremony at an Olympic Games is not something that can be replicated anywhere else, and they should be celebrated in front of the world before leaving Beijing,” Baker said.
The letter to Bach, sent by attorney Paul Greene, who represents athletes in doping and other cases against Olympic authorities, said the IOC president had asked the athletes for their input.
“A dignified medal ceremony from our clients’ vantage point is one in the Medals Plaza as originally planned and afforded to all other medalists,” he wrote.
After Valieva’s 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.
That did not resolve the larger question about the result from the team competition.
Nine Americans stand to get some sort of medal out of that — either the second-place prize they’re aiming to receive this weekend, or a gold that could become theirs if the Russian’s are disqualified because of Valieva’s doping case.
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.
By Eddie Pells, AP National Writer