EXCLUSIVE Olympics-Russia needs to clean up its act, culprits in Valieva case must get life ban - WADA

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BEIJING, Feb 14 (Reuters) - World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) president Witold Banka said he wanted Russian authorities to change the country's doping culture and conduct a thorough investigation into teenage figure skater Kamila Valieva's entourage, with any culprits to be banned for life.

The 15-year-old prodigy was cleared on Monday to compete in her next event at the Beijing Olympics by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after a failed drugs test last December, although CAS did not rule on the doping case itself.

"The doping of children is evil and unforgivable, and the doctors, coaches and other support personnel who are found to have provided performance-enhancing drugs to minors should be banned for life, and personally I also think that they should be in prison," Banka told Reuters on Monday.

The case is now in the hands of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), which has to set up a hearing to decide on the fate of Valieva, hot favourite for the women's singles in Beijing.

If WADA is not satisfied with RUSADA's report, it can appeal to CAS, which is sport's highest court.

"We demand that RUSADA completes a strong investigation into the entourage. We will also look into that and make sure that a proper investigation is carried out," said Banka.

RUSADA lifted Valieva's provisional suspension after she was notified of her positive test for a banned heart drug on Feb. 8 - more than six weeks after the sample collection.

2022 Beijing Olympics - Figure Skating - Training - Training Rink Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing, China - February 13, 2022. Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee in action during training. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

CAS rejected an appeal by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), WADA and the International Skating Union (ISU) to reinstate the suspension.

One of the reasons CAS gave for its ruling was that Valieva is a minor and barring her from further competing in Beijing, after she helped the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) win the team event last Monday, would have caused her "irreparable harm".

Russian athletes are competing under the ROC banner at the Olympics because of their poor doping track record.

Banka also said Russia's sports culture needed to change.

"Of course, what is very important, is that the culture in Russia must be changed in terms of entourage," he added.

"We still have the old generation of coaches and doctors who are working with the minors, with the athletes, so it's our strong demand that ... the Russian ministry of sports change this situation."

Valieva will skate her short programme on Tuesday followed by a free skating routine on Thursday.

The IOC said earlier on Monday that no medal ceremony would take place if the teenager finishes in the top three on the grounds that she is an athlete with a positive test on her record.

Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris

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