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After Russian doping decision, the U.S. suddenly has 9 new Olympic golden medalists

Nathan Chen competes at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Beijing. Chen and the rest of Team USA are now gold medal winners in the team event following a Russian doping decision against Kamila Valieva.
Natacha Pisarenko
/
AP
Nathan Chen competes at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Beijing. Chen and the rest of Team USA are now gold medal winners in the team event following a Russian doping decision against Kamila Valieva.

Updated January 30, 2024 at 12:35 PM ET

It's finally official.

U.S. figure skaters have been honored with a gold medal for their stunning team performance nearly two years ago at the Beijing Olympics.

"Quite frankly, it's just a feeling I've always dreamed of, one I can't believe is here," said Madison Chock, a member of the team at a press conference Tuesday.

"I'm still wrapping my head around the reality of everything. It's just been a very happy 24 hours of news for us."

News of the award began to trickle out early Tuesday morning.

"The 2022 U.S. Figure Skating Team athletes have been awarded the gold medal in the team event at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022," Team USA posted on social media.

"Congratulations Evan Bates, Karen Chen, Nathan Chen, Madison Chock, Zachary Donohue, Brandon Frazier, Madison Hubbell, Alexa Knierim and Vincent Zhou!"

At Tuesday's press conference the head of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, Sarah Hirshland, described the outcome as a win for clean, drug-free sport.

"This is about celebration," Hirshland said. "It's also about having hope that a system is growing and improving, insuring that all athletes from around the world can count on showing up to compete on a level playing field."

The honor — the first-ever team Olympic skating gold medal for the U.S. — was delayed because of a doping scandal involving Russian star skater Kamila Valieva.

She was allowed to compete in Beijing despite a prior test that showed she had used a cardiac medication that's banned as a performance enhancing drug.

Her masterful skating helped elevate the Russian team to an apparent gold-medal victory, but a final ruling Monday by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) disqualified her performance.

In its ruling Monday, CAS banned Valieva from the sport through the end of 2025 and disqualified all her performances dating back to December 2021.

Speaking on Tuesday, Olympic skater Evan Bates - one of the new gold medal winners - said the wait was excruciating, but he described the outcome as a vindication.

"This is a landmark case, this a monumental thing, an unprecedented event," he said. "Clean athletes left the Olympics without a medal they won cleanly. The finding by CAS brought some justice to the clean sport movement."

It's not clear when a formal award ceremony will be held to honor U.S. skaters, as well as Japanese athletes now in line to win silver. Speaking on Tuesday, American athletes said they hope to be honored in Paris during the Summer Olympics that begin in July 2024.

The Canadians, who placed fourth, did not move up to the bronze. In its final tabulations, the International Skating Union says even with the Valieva disqualification, Russia secured enough points to claim the bronze.

In a statement, Skate Canada said it is "extremely disappointed" with the tabulation and will "consider all options to appeal this decision."

U.S. officials acknowledged that lingering controversy on Tuesday, but said it won't affect the gold medal status of American athletes.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brian Mann
Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.
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