Beijing   -  Aged just 15, Russian prodigy Kamila Valieva came to Beijing favourite for figure skating Olympic gold. Now she is at the centre of a doping scandal that threatens to torpedo her fledgling career.

“When I was three years old I would tell my mother, I want to be an Olympic champion,” she said on Monday after she led the Russians to gold in the team event. “I believe my next dream will come true too,” she added, an apparent reference to the women’s individual event next week.

But on Friday, the International Testing Agency confirmed a test done by Valieva at the Russian championships had come back positive for trimetazidine, a substance banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) because it can increase blood flow efficiency and help endurance. Both her medal and dream are at risk, with her right to compete in the Chinese capital set to be decided at an urgent hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Up until now Valieva had seemed unstoppable, winning every major competition she entered in the 2021-22 season. At one of them, she broke the world record for short, free and overall programme scores. Her ability to land the most difficult jumps, apparently effortlessly, is matched by a talent for passionate performance and balletic grace. The teenager came to Beijing fresh off the back of winning the Russian and European Championships -- and promptly became the first woman to land a quadruple jump in Olympic competition on Monday.  The Russian championships were in late December but confirmation of the test result only came through on February 8, after Valieva had already competed twice in the team event. Former figure skater Katarina Witt said Valieva “is not to blame here”. Witt won gold in 1984 and 1988 for East Germany -- whose entire medal-winning strategy has since been revealed to have been based on state-sponsored doping. “As an athlete, you always follow the advice of your confidants, in this case she probably followed her coach and medical team,” Witt wrote on Facebook. “You are taught from a very young age to trust them.” 

She added: “No doping would have helped her to land these (quads)!!!” Russian competitors are taking part in Beijing as the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) after the nation was banned because of a massive state-sponsored doping scheme at its home 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Valieva trains with Eteri Tutberidze, a household name in Russia known for producing teenage skaters capable of technical brilliance. The coach’s success has been stalked by controversy, with several of her previous students leaving her or retiring early. On Valieva’s Beijing 2022 athlete page, Tutberidze is listed as her hero.