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President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday defended Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, who was at the centre of a doping scandal at the Beijing Winter Olympics, saying she could not have won gold "dishonestly".
"The whole country, figure skating fans all over the world, were especially worried about Kamila," Putin said during a televised meeting with Russian Olympic medallists at the Kremlin.
Valieva has "absorbed all the most complex elements of figure skating -- its flexibility, beauty, power and tenderness... and with her work brought the sport to the height of real art," Putin said.
"Such perfection cannot be achieved dishonestly, with the help of some additional means, manipulations... we understand and know this very well," he said.
At February's Games Valieva became the first woman to land a quadruple jump in Olympic competition, helping the Russian team secure gold in the team event.
It then emerged that she had earlier tested positive for trimetazidine, a drug used to treat angina but which is banned for athletes because it can boost endurance.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) allowed Valieva -- who was 15 at the time -- to continue competing at the Games, citing her young age, though without clearing her of doping.
In the individual final, Valieva fell several times and finished in fourth place.
The International Olympic Committee decided not to award any medals for the team event until Valieva's doping case has been resolved.