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Olympic Committee leader says he's 'disturbed' by coach's treatment of Kamila Valieva

Russia's Kamila Valieva reacts after competing in the women's figure skating event during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
ANTONIN THUILLIER
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AFP via Getty Images
Russia's Kamila Valieva reacts after competing in the women's figure skating event during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

BEIJING — The coldness Thomas Bach witnessed from the coach of figure skater Kamila Valieva after her performance Thursday "disturbed" the International Olympic Committee president.

Bach stated repeatedly his concerns for Valieva, her teammates and other younger athletes competing at the Olympic level. But the IOC leader resisted taking a hard line on implementing any changes in the immediate term.

For now, the IOC has asked the World Anti-Doping Agency to investigate Valieva's coach and other team officials that surround her.

The 15-year-old Valieva competed at the women's figure skating competition despite revelations she tested positive for a banned drug before the Olympics. The pressure of the days following that news clearly affected the young girl. She stumbled multiple times and fell during her routine. Afterwards, she looked dejected and threw her hand in the air. When she skated off the ice, she broke down in tears.

"You could see this chilling atmosphere, this distance" from Valieva's coaches when she gets off the ice, Bach said. "I'm very concerned."

The chilling atmosphere was also apparent up close. Valieva's controversial coach, Eteri Tutberidze, could be heard on live television asking the dejected Valieva in Russian: "Why did you stop fighting? Explain it to me, why? You let it go after that axel."

Thomas Bach, The International Olympic Committee President, speaks to the media during his closing press conference of the Games on February 18, 2022 in Beijing, China
Justin Setterfield / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee president, speaks to the media during his closing press conference of the Games on Friday in Beijing.

Bach posed the idea whether minor athletes, like Valieva, should be subjected to such intense pressure to compete at the highest level of sports.

In that regard, he again kicked the ball down the court.

The IOC doesn't have the power to institute age restrictions in Olympic competition. That lies with the individual international sports federations.

"We will initiate such a discussion to give them some food for thought in this," Bach said.

Bach also avoided answering a question on whether Tutberidze has a place at the Olympics. He instead said again that the WADA inquiry will look into Valieva's entourage.

WADA is also investigating other circumstances of Valieva's positive drug test.

But Bach insinuated that positive drug test is likely a result of her coaches' involvement.

He said "doping is very rarely done alone with the athletes."

There are no public allegations, or evidence, that Tutberidze had anything to do with Valieva's positive drug test. However, the coach is most directly significant to Valieva's career.

Reports say Valieva and her quad-landing teammates Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova — who won gold and silver medals Thursday — are part of a large group of teenage champions coming out of Tutberidze's camp. The coach develops young champions who essentially peak in their teens and then retire, often because of injury and after experiencing questionable practices regarding diet restrictions and overtraining.

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