It was perhaps the most consequential event of the Beijing Olympics, and almost no one got to see it.
Just after 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, the door to a conference room in the Beijing Continental Grand Hotel closed, and a hearing began. The task of the arbitrators who emerged from the room nearly six hours later is to determine if the Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, who learned on Tuesday that she had failed a pre-Olympics doping test, will be able to continue to participate at the Games.
The hearing was conducted by a panel of three arbitrators assigned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the body that adjudicates global sports disputes. They were asked to consider appeals filed by three organizations — the International Olympic Committee, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the global governing body for skating — against the Russian antidoping agency, known as Rusada.
None of the testimony was to focus directly on whether Valieva, 15, is guilty of taking a banned drug, traces of which turned up in a sample she submitted in December. Rather, the organizations were seeking to reinstate a provisional suspension that Rusada had imposed on Valieva on Tuesday and then lifted a day later.
Communicating largely through video links from outside China, legal teams for the parties made their arguments before the panel, which is led by a London-based American lawyer. Matthieu Reeb, the CAS general secretary, had said Valieva planned to provide testimony by video, but few other details were expected; CAS hearings normally take place under the strictest secrecy, and one involving accusations against a minor require the utmost care.
Yet while the hearing was taking place, several members of the news media were surprised to receive an email from an I.O.C. official that included a video of an interview with the head of the Russian Olympic Committee that was played during the hearing. In the clip, which was described to The New York Times by a person who had viewed it, the Russian official, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, slammed the handling of Valieva’s sample by the Russia antidoping agency’s Swedish testing partner.
Sharing the clip was extremely unusual; the I.O.C. and the Russian Olympic Committee are on opposing sides in the case, and the hearing was still underway at the time. The video outlining one aspect of Russia’s defense appeared to be the only one that the Olympic official shared with members of the news media.
Valieva has emerged as a breakout star of these Games: the first woman to complete a quad jump in the Olympics, and a key part of the Russian squad that won the team event, though the medals for its victory — and those of the silver and bronze medalists — have yet to be handed out as the doping case continues. The hearing on Sunday will help determine if Valieva gets to chase an individual own gold in the women’s competition that begins Tuesday.
The hearing ended almost six hours after it began, finishing at 2:10 a.m. local time in Beijing. The three-person panel will reconvene on Monday to complete its deliberations.
CAS said on Sunday that the panel planned to inform the parties of its decision around 2 p.m. in Beijing (1 a.m. Eastern) on Monday, and announce that finding publicly shortly after, one day before Valieva is — for now — scheduled to compete in the women’s short program.
The stakes of the decision for the Olympics and the global fight against doping could not be higher. As a Russian, Valieva is competing for a nation that is not able to take part in global sports under its own name or flag as part of a multiyear ban related to a state-led doping scheme that sought to corrupt results at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
But none of that was to be part of the discussion on Sunday. There was also expected to be little discussion about how the banned heart medication, trimetazidine, ended up in Valieva’s system, or why it took more than six weeks for the results of a test submitted in December to be confirmed by the Stockholm lab charged with testing it.
Instead, the hearing was to focus on process and proportionality, with the arbitrators asked to weigh a largely philosophical argument pitting the damage of enforcing an immediate ban on a 15-year-old girl — and blocking her from the biggest competition of her life — against the potential damage to the integrity of the competition if she is allowed to compete.
As a minor, Valieva enjoys a different status from older athletes, meaning any punishment that may eventually be meted out is likely to be less severe than those typically issued for a similar failed test by an adult. But that is a conversation for another day, and for another hearing that is most likely months away.