British journalists receive death threats over Winter Olympics doping debacle

Journalists Duncan Mackay and Michael Pravitt have faced online abuse and even been told to check their tea after breaking the news that Russian skater Kamila Valieva had failed a drugs test.

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The British journalists who first revealed Russian skating sensation Kamila Valieva failed a drugs test this week have reportedly faced death threats and online abuse since uncovering the news.

European and Russian national champion Valieva helped the Russian Olympic Committee claim gold in the team skating event at the ongoing Winter Olympics in Beijing.

The 15-year-old figure skater also became the first woman to land a quadruple jump in Olympic competition—pulling off the move twice—before testing positive for the banned heart drug trimetazidine.

Her positive test pertains to a urine sample taken from Valieva on December 25, but the results weren’t known until February 8 due to a Covid-19 outbreak at the Swedish laboratory responsible last month.

British journalists have had their lives threatened after reporting Russian teenager Kamila Valieva failed a drugs test

It’s cast doubt over whether Valieva will be free to compete in the individual event on Tuesday, with the results of her hearing—which will take place on Sunday—not due to come out until Monday.

Duncan Mackay and Michael Pavitt of ‘Inside the Games’ broke the story and have since been bombarded with aggressive replies from fellow members of the media, as well as the general public.

Pavitt told the Guardian colleague Mackay had been targeted by “significant” abuse, while colleagues had allegedly encountered criticism from Russian journalists in the Winter Olympics media centre.

One Twitter user told Mackay “You will be positive when you discover some new substances in your tea”, a likely reference to Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko, who was fatally poisoned in London in 2006.

Valieva declined to answer when another British journalist asked whether she was ‘clean’ during a recent press conference, and that reporter is also understood to have come under a torrent of abuse.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has encouraged an investigation into the entourage supporting Valieva’s bid for Olympic glory, with her young age making this story a special cause for concern.

Eteri Tutberidze, Valieva’s coach, told Russian state television she was confident her skater had done nothing wrong, while acknowledging the situation was “very controversial and difficult.”

“I want to say that I am absolutely sure that Camila is innocent and clean,” said Tutberidze. “For us, this is not a theorem, but an axiom, it does not need to be proved. We are with our athletes, in trouble and in joy, to the end.”

Following the news of Valieva’s positive test, there have also been reports of Tutberidze being targeted by criticism in Russia as ‘#позорТутберидзе’—translated to ‘shame on you, Tutberidze’—trended on Twitter

Trimetazidine is a heart medication with the power to ‘increase endurance and blood flow efficiency’ in its users – obvious benefits competing in a high-speed event such as skating.

Valieva’s appeal and the question of her immediate Olympic fate has become the biggest story in Beijing, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport set to announce its judgement.

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