The International Skating Union won't allow another 15-year-old figure skater to compete at the Olympics following the doping controversy surrounding Russia's Kamila Valieva in Beijing. At its 58th Congress in Thailand on Tuesday, the ISU voted to limit senior competitions to skaters 16 and older for the 2023-24 season and skaters 17 and older for the 2024-25 season and beyond. That means skaters must be 17 to compete in the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy. The body said the decision was made "for the sake of protecting the physical and mental health, and emotional well-being of Skaters," per CNN.
The vote was 100-16 with two abstentions, easily meeting the two-thirds majority required, Reuters reports. It adds that the decision drew "cheers and applause from delegates," though some had complained that the move would hurt smaller countries with fewer skaters. Russian figure skating coach Tatiana Tarasova saw the decision as targeting Russian skaters specifically. "They see that there is a large number of girls and boys in our country and they want to block them from competing," she told Russia's Match TV, per Reuters. But ISU President Jan Dijkema called it a "very important" and "very historic" decision.
In a draft proposal, the ISU argued elite minor skaters were at risk of "burnout, disordered eating, and long-term consequences of injury," per the CBC. Canadian gold medalist and ISU Athletes Commission member Eric Radford said most athletes were in favor of the change. It came after it was revealed at the Beijing Olympics that Valieva, now 16, failed a doping test from December. The test detected a banned heart medication. The Court of Arbitration for Sport allowed her to compete at the Olympics, however, "citing specific provisions related to her protected status as a minor," per CNN. (Read more figure skating stories.)