(The Hill) — NBC sports commentator Mike Tirico said 15-year-old Russian skater Kamila Valieva is the “victim of the villains” in the Winter Olympics.
Valieva has been put under an international spotlight after she was allowed to compete following a positive test for a banned substance.
“Portrayed by some this week as the villain, by others as the victim, she is, in fact, the victim of the villains,” Tirico said, referencing the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and the skater’s coaches, NBC Bay Area reported.
“Whether they orchestrated, prescribed or enabled, all of this is unclear. But what is certain: They failed to protect her,” he added.
The World Anti-Doping Agency is investigating the coaches as International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said that “doping is very rarely done alone with the athletes.”
The IOC faced backlash for letting Valieva compete after her positive drug tests while other Olympians have previously been banned for the use of marijuana.
“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,” Tirico said. “Now, a failed drug test from one of their athletes has tarnished one of the marquee events of the Games and taken away from every skater’s moment.”
Tirico called for the IOC to implement punishments against Russia for the incident as Valieva, who was favored to win gold, fell multiple times during her performance and broke down afterwards.
“Now, it’s time for the IOC to stand up,” Tirico added. “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, if swift action from the top of the Olympic movement does not happen quickly, the very future of the Games could be in jeopardy.”