Figure skater Vincent Zhou trained his entire life to win an Olympic medal, a goal he achieved at the 2022 Beijing Olympics when the United States took silver in the team competition.

A year later, Zhou and his teammates are still waiting for their medal, whether it will be silver or gold.

The Russian figure skating team that won gold in Beijing is under scrutiny for alleged doping, and if Russia is found to have used performance-enhancing drugs, it could be stripped of its medal. If that happens, Team USA could be awarded gold.

«While the medals are missing, it is representative of a larger problem, the problem of how doping affects fair sport and the Olympic Games,» Zhou said in a recent interview.

A year ago, 15-year-old Kamila Valieva led the Russian Olympic Committee to victory in the event with an impressive performance by becoming the first woman to perform the quadruple jumps in Olympic competition.

Kamila Valieva of Russia in Figure Skating, Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, Capital Indoor Stadium on February 17, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
Kamila Valieva competes at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Zhangjiakou, China on February 17, 2022.Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images archive

But that same day, a World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory confirmed that Valieva had tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug just two months earlier, on December 25, 2021.

The drug, trimetazidine, is usually prescribed to treat chest pain, but it can also help athletes perform at higher heart rates for an extended period. The World Anti-Doping Agency first banned trimetazidine in 2014.

“That the sample has been sitting in the laboratory, that it has not been expedited and reported in a timely manner so that she (Valieva) can compete on February 7 … it was simply a terrible tragedy and an oversight and failure of the system said Travis Tygart, executive director of the US Anti-Doping Agency.

«The worst scenario is to send an athlete who has a pending positive to a major international competition.»

Zhou said he and his teammates are increasingly frustrated as they wait for the World Anti-Doping Agency to decide what to do after the Russian Anti-Doping Agency ruled last month that Valieva was not guilty of a doping violation.

«It’s clear that the whole situation is unfair, that a skater who tested positive was allowed to compete before being cleared, because that’s not standard procedure,» Zhou said.

PARK CITY, UT - SEPTEMBER 26: Figure skater Vincent Zhou poses for a portrait during the Team USA Media Summit ahead of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics on September 26, 2017 in Park City, Utah.
Figure skater Vincent Zhou poses for a portrait during the Team USA Media Summit ahead of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in Park City, Utah on September 26, 2017.File Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The World Anti-Doping Agency said in a statement to NBC News that it «will consider its next steps so that the matter is resolved as quickly as possible and without further undue delay.»

Tygart said he hopes the World Anti-Doping Agency will appeal the Russian agency’s decision.

“We wish it was different, but recent history and non-compliance should have told us that we cannot allow [the Russian agency] make the initial decision, and here we are a year later,” he said.

The World Anti-Doping Agency is considering an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which resolves international sports disputes. Depending on the result, the results of the team figure skating event could change.

In one scenario, the US could take home gold, and Japan and Canada could move up to silver and bronze, respectively.

«If you compete with athletes who doped, and the doping athletes win, it’s only fair that they get disqualified and you get promoted to first place,» Zhou said.

Russian athletes were banned from competing in the olympics under the Russian flag due to an ongoing ban on the country’s state-sponsored anti-doping program. The World Anti-Doping Agency banned Russia from competing under its flag in 2019 after finding it non-compliant in 2015 due to mass doping in Russian athletics.

The Russian Olympic Committee did not respond to a request for comment on the Valieva investigation.

Adam Rippon, a former Olympic medalist and figure skating coach, said that if he were competing, he would want to hold the Russian Anti-Doping Agency to account.

«As a coach, I want accountability, and there hasn’t been any and that’s what’s so frustrating and unfair,» he said, adding that the US Anti-Doping Agency has a zero tolerance policy and the right to test its players. athletes. at all times, 24 hours a day.

“We literally stay up night and day reviewing the test results of the athletes we send to the Games and making sure they are processed and reported,” Tygart said. «You cannot send high-level athletes to major international competitions with pending positives that are pending for more than six weeks.»

The International Olympic Committee said in a statement that it welcomes the World Anti-Doping Agency’s recent announcement to “undertake a full review of the RUSADA decision to consider what its next steps will be so that the matter is resolved as soon as possible. possible and without further undue delay.

«Only the completion of the case will allow the International Skating Union to establish the final results of the figure skating team competition at these Games and the IOC to decide on the allocation of medals.»

But for Tygart and the members of the USA Figure Skating Team, it may be too late.

«The damage is close to irreparable at this point,» Tygart said.