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Figure skating body to vote on raising minimum competition age

Figure skating’s governing body will vote later this year on a proposal to raise the minimum age for senior competitions to 17, it said in an email to AFP Friday.

The sport has been under intense scrutiny at the Beijing Olympics after 15-year-old Russian prodigy Kamila Valieva was allowed to compete despite failing a drugs test before the Games, with her youth cited as a factor in the decision. 

Questions around the influence her entourage may have had on Valieva, as well as her public breakdown on Thursday after an error-ridden performance that saw her only place fourth, have led to calls to raise the competition age from its current minimum of 15. 

In the email, the International Skating Union (ISU) said it could “confirm that the ISU Council has already decided to include a proposal to increase the competitors’ age limit to 17 across all ISU Figure Skating disciplines”. 

It added that it did not normally comment on its agenda ahead of publication, but “the current situation and various media reports” had led it to do so. 

The International Olympic Committee told AFP it “welcomes the considerations by ISU”.

The congress will take place from June 6-10, with the suggested change needing a two-thirds majority to pass. 

Newly crowned Olympic women’s singles champion Anna Shcherbakova and silver medallist Alexandra Trusova are both 17.

The idea of raising the competition age has been floated before in the sport but has never borne fruit. 

But the Valieva case has prompted renewed discussion, with some competitors at the Beijing Games saying they would support a change.  

Mariah Bell, at 25 the oldest US woman to compete in Olympic figure skating since 1928, said she “absolutely” believed the age limit should be raised.

Switzerland’s Alexia Paganini agreed that it would provide more “motivation to create a skater who has longevity”, while Natasha McKay of Britain said that injuries might be reduced.

Alysa Liu, the youngest US skater at 16, also said raising the minimum age would not bother her that much. 

“I’d just be like ‘OK, I just have to wait a little bit longer’,” she was quoted by USA Today as saying. 

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