Vladimir Putin has publicly defended teenage figure skating star Kamila Valieva as she faces a series of doping charges stemming from the Winter Olympic Games.
16-year-old Valieva made headlines at the Beijing Games, becoming the first woman to successfully land a quadruple jump at a Winter Olympics before going on to help the Russians secure gold in the team event.
But her time in the spotlight quickly turned sour when news broke that one of the Russian team members had tested positive for a banned substance, meaning a medal ceremony would not take place.
It was later unveiled that national hero Valieva was the person who had tested positive for trimetazidine, a substance commonly used to treat angina, although it is strictly prohibited during competition as it can help with recovery and endurance.
At the time, the Court of Arbitration for Sport alongside the International Olympic Committee did not definitively clear Valieva of doping, although the sporting body did allow her to continue competing in Beijing.
The medals for the team event still haven't been dished out as the case against Valieva is still ongoing and unresolved, although Russian president Putin now claims his athlete would not have won gold "dishonestly".
"The whole country, figure skating fans all over the world, were especially worried about Kamila," Putin said.
"Such perfection cannot be achieved dishonestly, with the help of some additional means, manipulations... we understand and know this very well."
He added that Valieva: "Absorbed all the most complex elements of figure skating - its flexibility, beauty, power and tenderness... and with her work brought the sport to the height of real art."
When word spread of the doping allegations, fans immediately assumed they were true given Russia's history with banned substances during the Olympic Games
But while she's still fighting to clear her name, Valieva took the time to thank her coaches and her fans in Russia for their continued support.
“You are absolute masters at what you do! You not only train, but also teach how to overcome yourself, which helps not only in sport but also in life,” Valieva said via social media.
“With you by my side, I feel protected and able to overcome any ordeals. Thank you for helping me to be strong."
In a separate message to fans, she wrote: “I want to thank everyone who has been with me during this tough period: who was by my side and did not let me lose heart, who sent me supportive messages, who was just thinking of me, who prayed, who believed me and in me.
“Thank you, my fans, my family and friends, my coaches, the entire ROC team, my country, and people from all over the world.
“THANK YOU ALL!!!! I AM FOREVER GRATEFUL!!!! I will always remember this, be grateful to you and skate for you.”
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
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