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Kristi Yamaguchi talks 'frustration,' 'sadness' over Russian skating scandal

“There’s a cloud over an entire Olympics now,” the 1992 Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater told TODAY.
/ Source: TODAY

Count Kristi Yamaguchi among those disappointed in the saga of Russian skater Kamila Valieva.

The figure skating legend became the first Asian American to win a gold medal in any sport at the Winter Olympics at the 1992 games in Albertville.

Valieva has generated worldwide headlines after she was allowed to continue competing in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics after she failed a drug test. Her lawyers say the failed test was contaminated by medication her grandfather was taking.

What does Yamaguchi think of the whole affair?

USA Kristi Yamaguchi, 1992 Winter Olympics
Kristi Yamaguchi competes during the women's singles free skating finals at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. Richard Mackson / Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

“So many different things,” she told TODAY Tuesday. “I think frustration and anger, first of all, because there’s a lot of details and a lot of things going on with the case and still ongoing. But I think also sadness, sadness that figure skating’s in this position, that this happened to a 15-year-old, that there’s a cloud over an entire Olympics now, not just figure skating.”

Yamaguchi also thinks it’s unfortunate that Valieva’s case has obscured the fact that several other athletes are competing fairly.

“It’s frustrating because there are so many clean athletes out there competing on a level playing field, and this is not I think the spirit of the Olympics to have a positive athlete out there competing,” she said.

The controversy surrounding Valieva has been amplified because she is a minor, which has led to questions about whether or not she has a responsibility to be aware of any substances she was taking.

“You do know, as an athlete,” Yamaguchi said. “You are given a list, at least in the U.S. Olympic and U.S. Figure Skating, of banned substances, products to avoid. I went to the World Junior Championships at 14, 15, 16 and experienced doping there, so you’re certainly aware of it.”

Yamaguchi said it’s up also up to an athlete’s team to provide guidance.

“And I do have to say you are also relying on the team around you to help you navigate all of that, so, especially at that young age,” she said. “But you do know what is right and what is wrong, what are banned substances and obviously what fair play is.”

While figure skating is embroiled in the Valieva scandal at the moment, Yamaguchi said she was encouraged by the progress the sport has made in the Asian American community. Nathan Chen has won gold in men’s singles, while the U.S. team also features Karen Chen, Vincent Zhou and Alysa Liu.

“I’m just truly amazed at what the skaters are doing these days,’ Yamaguchi said. “It’s so great to see diversity really come into U.S. figure skating and (I’m) so proud of the team and the skaters who are there and doing so well already.”

“The sport has just continued to advance and I’m just the biggest fan now,” she said.