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Figure Skating

The Kamila Valieva Saga Is Going To Get Weirder Before It Gets Better

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 15: Kamila Valieva of Team ROC skates during the Women Single Skating Short Program on day eleven of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Capital Indoor Stadium on February 15, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Say what you will about figure skating, but at least it takes forever, which is why the ongoing Kamila Valieva mess is only getting odder with the introduction of her grandfather as a major player. And you know how slow and absent-minded grandfathers behave as a general rule.

This was going to be an agonizingly slow story to develop anyway once the lawyers got involved because, well, lawyers. And that’s lawyers on top of chemists on top of Olympic blazers on top of judges on top of Russians on top of underaged athletes on top of the cartoonish rage of the NBC analysts who nearly chewed through your televisions during Valieva’s short program this morning as everyone on screen cried uncontrollably like they were all attending Hello Kitty’s funeral. Compare all this to Stan Kroenke speaking while holding the Super Bowl trophy and see if you don’t finally understand why football has everything wrong except the gambling.

As we know to our great cost, Valieva tested positive for trimetazidine, a heart medication whose main benefit seems to be that it makes the heart rates of laboratory analysts slow to a veritable crawl. That’s how we got to this point, with an event that may not have any winners for months and a rogue grandfather slowing it even more.

Valieva’s lawyers reportedly claimed Sunday night in a hearing that Valieva tested positive thanks to possible contamination with a medication her grandfather was taking, presumably as part of his training for the septuagenarian figure skating event later in this Olympiad.

“There can be completely different ways how it got into her body,” [Valieva’s lawyer Anna] Kozmenko is reported to have said. “For example, grandfather drank something from a glass, saliva got in, this glass was somehow later used by an athlete. Or the drug lay down on some surface, traces remained, the drug lay down on this surface, which the athlete then drank.”

As this all began on Christmas Day when she was first tested to be cleared to compete, we are now well into week eight, and assuming that it takes months for the Court for Arbitration For Sport to do the levels of nothing required to make the story fade from view, this might reach until next Christmas. At least we have the right to hope it does, given that much great entertainment is both episodic and spans years. And let’s face it, Valieva has nothing but time, which is more than can be said for her grandfather and the careless way he seems to handle his medication.

This is way better than the Novak Djokovic medicine story, which has also dragged on since January and has little chance of resolving itself before a late March/early April deadline for a French vaccination directive that the tennis star says he would rather not play in the French Open than obey. The polar opposite of Valieva, he is asserting his right not to take medicine as a personal choice based on you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do rather than as the fault of a stranger who either did or didn’t give him the virus (which, at this point, who knows, or for that matter cares?). Then again, tennis does not have style points in its essential structure, and not involving a miscellaneous relative seems like a clear creative failure by Team Novak. Who doesn’t like a wacky elderly relative in the narrative? It breaks up the monotony of a story that’s going to last forever.

Speaking of lasting forever, by the way, the Valieva story just got renewed for extra episodes after she dominated in the short program this morning and is in pole position for gold. But be patient, kids. It took eight years and 86 episodes for Tony Soprano to get clipped (maybe), and that had nutty old relatives written all through it. That’s two Olympics from now, if the Olympics as a concept last that long. If so, the 2030 Games will probably be back in Beijing because nobody else wants the damned thing any more, and Valieva will be 23 and maybe by then all this sturm und drang may seem like just a distant nightmare. After all, grandparents aren’t the only ones who tend to forget things.

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