Katarina Witt: “There should be no tolerance for the use of doping in any sport and in any discipline. I’ll be blunt: doping should lead to a life ban.”
Interview with two time Olympic champion Katarina Witt.
source: russian.rt.ru dd. 16th January
Kamila Valieva had an incredibly hard time during the short program, but she coped with it, even despite a small mistake. This was stated in an interview with RT by two-time Olympic champion Katarina Witt. According to the German figure skater, the Russian skater showed incredible courage, and one can only imagine what a heavy burden is on her now because of the doping scandal. The famous athlete believes that it was the adults surrounding her who put the 15-year-old girl in such a difficult position.
Despite everything that Kamila Valieva has faced in the last few days, she is leading after the short program in the individual competitions.
Katarina Witt: I would not want to be in her place: go on the ice, being under such huge pressure. She showed incredible courage. Yes, she made a small mistake, and yet … She had to perform under the gaze of people from all over the world, all attention was to her and, of course, to the rest of the competitors. This 15-year-old girl has a heavy burden on her shoulders. It’s unfair that she had to face such pressure. That is why it was a real pleasure to watch her, she performed amazingly. I must say that she skates at a completely unattainable level. That evening was not easy for her, but she coped.
Do you think all these trials somehow influenced her performance?
Katarina Witt: I think what happened last week would hit any athlete hard. You seem to be in your “bubble” and try not to concentrate on anything outside of it, but Kamila knows what a burden lies on her shoulders. And all the other skaters are also under pressure. With that in mind, she did just fine. She had to participate in the competition and at the same time deal with a problem that definitely should not have touched her in any way.
How difficult is it to clear your mind and focus on your current work when such things are happening around you?
Katarina Witt: It is very difficult. It was with great pleasure watching her during the European Championships, her programs deserve all kinds of compliments. Kamila is great – quad jumps, triple axels, personal charm and grace on the ice. But, I have to admit, the events of the past week have, in a way, changed the way people look at her. And this is the saddest part of this story. Again, I no doubt consider her a victim. She is 15 years old, a minor and should not have to deal with the problems she is now facing. It is simply impossible to compare my Olympic experience with hers.
How important is the age of the skater in this whole story?
Katarina Witt: I would like to make a slightly provocative suggestion: athletes must be at least 18 years old to take part in the Olympic Games. I asked myself this question after the 2014 Games in Sochi, where Yulia Lipnitskaya performed. She had an incredibly beautiful performance to the music from Schindler’s List. I really hoped to see her developing in four years, but she just disappeared.
And I thought: why do skaters have to reach their peak or experience this pressure to reach their peak at 15 years old? Why don’t they have the opportunity to say, “You know, I’m 15 now and at 19 I’ll still be here and I’ll still have something to show.” It seems to me that due to the fact that you have a large pool of talented figure skaters in Russia and serious competition between them, it is very difficult to “grow” at your own pace.
How great is the pressure on modern athletes and are they able to cope with it through “I can’t”?
Katarina Witt: In general, pressure is difficult to cope with, but it is those who succeed become champions. Of course, you can’t compare with the time when I skated, although there are still some similarities. What this girl is going through because of the drug test, the political pressure that her own country puts on her because of this, is almost unbearable. I was at least 18 years old at my first Olympics, but I still felt tremendous political pressure, because these were the times of the Cold War, and, of course, my country expected me to win, and I myself wanted it, as did my coach which, by the way, was very tough.
Everyone knows Jutta Müller (her athletes won 58 medals at the European, World and Olympic Championships. – RT ). She was very assertive, but at the same time she was an amazing friend to me. I will say this: at least there were no social networks. It seems to me that their appearance has changed a lot. In a sense, you felt more secure. And now everything very quickly attracts the attention of the whole world, much faster than 30-40 years ago. So there is definitely a difference.
Doping – a big problem in figure skating?
Katarina Witt: First of all, from my point of view and from the point of view of all honest and clean athletes, there should be no tolerance for the use of doping in any sport and in any discipline. For example, in figure skating, not a single case of the use of illegal drugs at the international level has been identified, since it does not help in any way to make a quadruple jump or skate gracefully and beautifully. Yes, perhaps, thanks to doping in training, the athlete will be able to perform the jump not 50 times, but 100, and this will allow him to prepare better. But to be honest, I never thought about it. The thought never crossed my mind, “I wonder if this will help?”
I grew up with values such as honesty and sincerity. Everything must be achieved by yourself, and everyone should have equal chances. So I’ll be blunt: doping should lead to a life ban. Again, she is 15 years old, and we have not yet received the final results, but it is obvious that the adults around her put her in such a position. I can’t imagine how she is going through now, at such a young age it must be unbearable.
The IOC decided not to hold the awards ceremony if Valieva is in the top three. How to react to it?
Katarina Witt: It was a big disappointment for everyone. We found ourselves in the role of losers – what is happening is unprofitable for anyone. Take, for example, team competitions. Six athletes competed from each country. Russia won, the USA – in second place, Japan – in third. And two other teams were deprived of the awards ceremony. This is the worst thing that can happen. They compete for a medal, no matter what: gold, silver or bronze. And one of the most important moments is to be on the podium and hear the anthem of your country or share the podium with your competitors, who are often your good friends and you deeply respect each other. So if only for this reason, the postponement of the awards is not a fair decision, because the organizers do not know how it will end. This is a real disaster for the sport in general and first of all for all affected athletes.
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