International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said he was "very disturbed" by Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva’s devastating performance on Thursday. He also condemned her entourage for their explicit lack of support.
While watching the long program on Thursday night, Bach recalled being bothered by the unfathomable amount of pressure placed on Valieva, who is just 15 years old and at the centre of a doping controversy. He struggled to watch her constantly try to compose herself throughout her routine.
“This pressure is beyond my imagination, and particular for a girl of 15 years old," Bach said.
According to Russian news outlets, Valieva's coach Eteri Tutberidze was seen asking the precocious skater a slew of critical questions, some of which included, “Why did you stop fighting? Explain it to me, why?"
Bach was upset by the situation and could only hope that Valieva has a good support system at home.
"When I saw how she was received by her closest entourage, with such, what appeared to be tremendous coldness, it was chilling to see this," Bach said. "Rather than giving her comfort, rather than to try to help her, you could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance."
“All of this does not give me much confidence in this closest entourage of Kamila, neither with regard to what happened in the past nor as far as it concerns the future, how to deal, how to address, how to treat a minor athlete at the age of 15 under such an obvious mental stretch. I can only wish for her that she has the support of her family, the support of her friends and the support of people who help her (overcome) this extremely difficult situation.”
Valieva has been under heavy criticism of late due to her positive test for a banned heart medication. While she was provisionally suspended by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, she ultimately was cleared to compete by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
What has transpired with Valieva over the course of these Olympics has prompted many to question whether the Games should have a minimum age requirement. Bach says these discussions are already underway.
“But this needs careful deliberation,” Bach explained. “It needs consultation on two fronts: The one is with regard to WADA, to see whether there is the need to adapt the rules. The other stakeholder is the international federations, whether the establishment of a minimum age for participation is an appropriate measure.
“We will initiate such a discussion and at least give them some food for thought.”
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