As Kamila Valieva skates, NBC’s Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski express their outrage

Kamila Valieva during the short program on Tuesday. ng, China. (Photo by Matthew Stockman / Getty Images

Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski weren’t about to stick to skating as Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee returned to the ice, cleared to compete by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to continue competing in the Beijing Games after testing positive for a banned substance.

Weir and Lipinski typically provide entertainment and skating insight during NBC commentary that often centers on Weir’s amusingly outlandish outfits. This time, Weir’s criticism of the Valieva situation was searing and their outrage was clear from the very beginning of NBC’s broadcast at 5 a.m. Eastern time Tuesday.

“We have to remind ourselves that she is just 15 years old, a minor, and I know more than anyone what it’s like to compete at an Olympic Games at 15 years old,” Lipinski, a former Olympian, told viewers. “But a positive [drug] test is a positive test. She cannot skate.”


Weir concurred.

“If you can’t play fair, then you can’t play and it is a shame because she is a tremendous athlete.”

As Valieva warmed up hours later for her turn in the competition, Lipinski and Weir had not changed their tone, unusually critical for Olympics broadcasts.

“It’s not just about her skating or not skating,” Lipinski began. “It’s affecting everyone at these Olympic Games to think that there’s going to be no medal ceremony if she’s on the podium. . . . I can’t even comprehend that. Imagine how it’s affecting so many other skaters’ lives and their experiences.”

Announcers Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski. – Paul Sancya / AP, File

For skating athletes, as Weir once was, “the Olympics were everything that I ever dreamed about, everything that kept me going on the day-to-day and to have that experience and that feeling . . . diminished because of a positive drug test on one of your competitors when everyone else adheres to the rules . . . it’s a slap in the face to every other skater.”

Lipinski added, “it’s putting a permanent scar on our sport.” Lipinski was a gold medalist as a teenager in Nagano in 1998, and she called standing on the podium during the national anthem her most vivid memory of her Olympics and said it was “so sad” that it was “being taken away.”


According to Weir, the skating community is furious that Valieva is being allowed to compete. Lipinski said she feels that, and sadness, too. Valieva has one gold medal and leads the standings after the short program.

After her performance, Valieva declined an interview with NBC’s Andrea Joyce, and her ROC teammate Alexandra Trusova declined to answer questions about the situation. Valieva was teary-eyed after skating, and Weir addressed the Games’ other competitors, saying, “We’re so sorry it’s overshadowing your Olympics.”

Lipinski reminded viewers that over the last year, she had regarded Valieva as the best figure skater she had ever seen. “Saying that now not only makes me confused but it makes me angry and disoriented by everything that I thought that I knew,” she said.

Instead of elation at a wonderful performance, Weir felt “so uncomfortable as a skater and as a skating fan even having to commentate [on] her performance simply because she should not be able to compete in this competition.”


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