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Mike Tirico condemns ‘villains’ surrounding Russia’s Kamila Valieva in powerful monologue

The NBC Sports host criticized Russian officials surrounding the 15-year-old skater, whose positive drug test fueled controversy at the Winter Olympics.
/ Source: TODAY

NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico delivered a stirring monologue Friday in which he condemned Russian coaches and officials for their treatment of embattled figure skater Kamila Valieva after she finished in fourth place for the women's individual event at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

That showing came after Valieva was allowed to continue to compete following revelations that she had failed a drug test in December 2021 that she claims was contaminated by her grandfather’s medication.

“The adults in the room left her alone,” Tirico said. “Portrayed by some this week as the villain, by others as the victim, she is, in fact, the victim of the villains. The coaches and national Olympic committee surrounding Kamila Valieva, whether they orchestrated, prescribed or enabled — all of this is unclear. But what is certain: They failed to protect her.”

Kamila Valieva
Kamila Valieva is crushed following her performance in the free skate at the Winter Olympics.Jean Catuffe / Getty Images

Tirico then questioned Russia’s behavior on the international athletic stage. 

“Guilt by association is often unfair, but it’s called for here,” he said. “Russia has been banned from using the name of its country the last three Olympic Games because of the systemic state-run doping program that was uncovered after they hosted the Sochi Games in 2014.

“The deal that was brokered was supposed to ensure a level playing field while giving clean Russian athletes a chance to compete. But that scenario totally broke down here. Now, a failed a drug test from one of their athletes has tarnished one of the marquee events in the games and taken away from every skater’s moment.”

Citing “clean and fair competition,” Tirico pointed out the harsh reaction and the fact that Olympians and gold medalists have “spoken up." He also noted that International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach had criticized Valieva’s handlers for their "tremendous coldness" after she finished skating and said that those who played a part should be held responsible.

Tirico then suggested the IOC needs to take action to show it won’t tolerate any future scandals.

“It’s time for the IOC to stand up, whether it’s about blocking Russia from hosting events for a very long time or stringent and globally transparent testing for Russian athletes going forward,” he said. “If swift action from the top of the Olympic movement does not happen quickly, the very future of the Games could be in jeopardy.”

NBC Olympics figure skating analysts Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir said they disagreed with the decision to let Valieva compete after the failed drug test, but noted that they felt bad for her.

After Valieva stumbled and fell multiple times during her free skate, her coaches criticized her performance.

“It makes me angry that the adults around her weren’t able to make better decisions and guide her and be there for her because she’s the one now dealing with the consequences. And she’s just 15 and it’s not fair,” Lipinski said before her score was revealed.

“It is heartbreaking to watch Kamila have to go through this,” Weir added after Valieva learned she would not win a medal. “The people around her should have kept her away from this and shielded her from this, kept her from competing here.”

After the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Valieva would be allowed to compete in Beijing, despite her positive test, the IOC said there would be no medal ceremony for any event in which she won either the gold, silver or bronze medal.

Valieva was initially on course to make these a memorable Olympics for less controversial reasons. She became the first woman to land a quadruple jump, accomplishing the feat twice while leading the ROC figure skating team to a gold medal. The United States won the silver medal.