Court rejects request by US figure skaters to get their team medals before closing ceremony – USA TODAY

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BEIJING — The nine U.S. figure skaters who won silver medals in the team event at the 2022 Winter Olympics felt so strongly about receiving those medals before the end of the Games that they took the matter to court.

But they did not succeed.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport announced late Saturday night that it rejected the appeal the Americans filed earlier in the day, which would have forced the International Olympic Committee to hold a public medal ceremony for the team event prior to Sunday night’s closing ceremony.

CAS said in a news release that the hearing took place from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in Beijing, by video conference. It announced the decision of its panel of arbitrators but little else. A full report on the decision is expected within the coming week.

In a letter sent to the IOC and its president, Thomas Bach, earlier Saturday, an attorney for the American skaters, Paul Greene, argued that the IOC’s decision not to award medals for the event – which came amid news that Russian team member Kamila Valieva tested positive for a banned substance – runs afoul of both the Olympic charter and the host city contract.

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“We are committed to protecting our clients’ rights before the CAS and anticipate that the Panel assigned to this case will understand that our clients are being denied a legal right they have earned and are entitled to receive,” Greene wrote in the letter, which was obtained and published by The Associated Press.

The IOC declined comment.

Ramsey Baker, the executive director of U.S. Figure Skating, had said in a statement that the organization stands with its athletes, three of whom have also won individual medals in Beijing.

“We stand with and fully support our athletes as they courageously seek to be given the recognition that they have earned,” Baker said. “Having a medal ceremony at an Olympic Games is not something that can be replicated anywhere else, and they should be celebrated in front of the World before leaving Beijing.”

Spokesperson Kate Hartman said the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is also “completely supportive” of the American skaters’ request.

The IOC announced earlier this week that it would not hold a medal ceremony for the event due to the Valieva saga.

The 15-year-old helped Russia win team gold in the first week of the Games, then learned that a sample she had provided Dec. 25 came back positive for a banned heart medication. The IOC, World Anti-Doping Agency and International Skating Union went to CAS in hopes of barring her from competing in the individual event, but CAS ruled in her favor. She went on to finish fourth after a disastrous long program.

With Valieva still eligible to compete despite having tested positive for a banned substance, the IOC decided to delay the team medal ceremony, ostensibly to avoid a scenario in which the Russians were awarded gold medals that they might later have to return. It said it would “organize dignified medal ceremonies once the case of Ms. Valieva has been concluded.” 

While keeping Valieva off the podium, this also meant nine skaters from the U.S. and eight from Japan would not get to pick up their silver and bronze medals, respectively.

Bach held a private meeting with U.S. skaters earlier this week to hear out their concerns, and explain the IOC’s reasoning for its decision. He confirmed in a news conference Friday that the IOC had offered the American team an Olympic torch as “a token of appreciation” until its medal ceremony was eventually held.

“We learned a lot about their feelings, about their sport, incidents in their sport and attitudes in their sport,” Bach said. “And there were also some ideas being presented, how this can be addressed. And we will follow up on these ideas and proposals.”

The IOC has said that the results in the team event will be considered “preliminary” until Valieva’s case is resolved. It is unclear how long that process will take.

Russia, meanwhile, has said it also plans to fight the IOC in order to receive its team figure skating medals. Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozdnyakov said in a statement Thursday that the organization believes Russia is entitled to gold “regardless of the outcome of the disciplinary investigation in relation to the athlete.”

“We will consistently defend this position in any potential proceedings, including at the CAS, if necessary,” Pozdnyakov said.

Less than two hours before the CAS ruling was announced, two members of the U.S. team that won silver – Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier – stepped off the ice, finishing sixth in the pairs competition. They said they had no information on the CAS hearing, and had been largely insulated by members of their team. But they knew how they felt.

“What did we do to not deserve our reward?” Knierim said. “Like, what did we do? Why are we punished for something we didn’t do?”