The price of gold

By Gem Mitchell and Amy Logg

When 15-year-old Russian ice skater Kamila Valieva tested positive for a banned drug, the world’s initial reaction was to label her a “drug cheat”. But as the story unfolded in front of a global audience, questions started being asked of the adults around her, in particular the seemingly cold and clinical coach, Eteri Tutberidze.

Despite Valieva having a positive test, the IOC allowed her to compete in the individual program. Under the immense pressure of the situation, she failed to perform a clean free skate, falling several times during her program.

After her skate, rather than a comforting embrace from a coach she was faced with a frustrated Tutberidze, who could be heard yelling at her “Why did you let it go?” … Explain it to me, why?”

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The IOC president, Thomas Bach, has since expressed his anger at the coach’s reaction and believes Tutberidze’s attitude highlights a deeper issue within the Russian skating team.

Trusova became the first woman to land five quadruple jumps in the Olympics but was devastated when she came in second place. She was seen crying after her teammate Anna Shcherbakova came in first place.

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After winning gold, a career highlight for Shchbakova, she was shown sitting alone and looking miserable, saying she felt “emptiness” after her win.

These three girls are not alone, with Tutberidze’s previous students showing a history of unhappy skaters. Polina Shuboderova, spoke with Russian news outlet Annenberg Media, of the extreme expectations the coach places on her students, of recording students’ weights and being pushed to their limits from a young age, with Shuboderova saying, “even if you are tired or you are injured, you still go on the ice and work”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin awards the Order of Honor to figure skating coach Eteri Tutberidze in 2018. Photo: Presidential Press and Information Office/CC/Wikimedia Commons

Another previous student, Anastasia Kuprinya, spoke of being given hormone-blocking medication to prevent puberty and the changes to their bodies. She told The Guardian: “I never questioned it. In Russia, it is widely known that young ice skaters use hormone blockers to keep their bodies from changing.”

The world anti-doping agency’s (WADA) investigation into Valieva’s test result will take several months.

Featured image: Figure skater. Photo: manfredrichter/CC/

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