The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, which ended Feb. 20, was tainted by yet another doping scandal from the Russians, this time in the women’s figure skating events.
15-year-old Kamila Valieva tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug called trimetazidine, which increases blood flow and endurance and is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), as well as two other non-banned heart substances.
Her test was taken on Dec. 25 for the Russian national championships, which she won, but the results weren’t announced until Feb. 7, right after the ROC, including Valieva, won the team skating competition.
After complex hearings, the Court of Arbitration for Sport allowed Valieva to compete in the singles event, where she was expected to win gold, although there wouldn’t be a medal ceremony if she placed. Ultimately, Valieva lost to Russians Anna Acherbakova (gold) and Alexandra Trusova (silver).
The 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics, pushed back from 2020, also had a drug scandal in the qualifying for U.S. women’s 100-meter dash when 21-year-old Sha’Carri Richardson won with a time of 10.86 seconds, qualifying her for the Olympics.
However, shortly after her win, it was announced she tested positive for marijuana, also a banned substance by WADA, and she accepted a month-long ban that would’ve ended in time for her to compete in the 4×100 relay if she was put onto the team.
However, Richards did not compete at all at the Tokyo Games and she accepted her fate with grace.
“I greatly apologize if I let you guys down, and I did,” Richards said to her family, fans and sponsors in an interview with NBC in 2021. In that same interview, Richards said the reason she tested positive was because she was trying to cope with the death of her mother while she was at the trials.
These two athletes have very different stories, yet one came up with an excuse that she accidentally took her grandfather’s heart medication known to improve endurance and challenged her ban. The other accepted her ban and owned up to her actions for using a drug that is banned, yet legal in many states including the state the trials were in.
“Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mines? My mother died and I can’t run and was also favored to place top three,” Richardson tweeted on Feb. 14. “The only difference I see is I’m a black young lady.”
While Valieva’s test result wasn’t immediately released because it took so long to flag it in Sweden, once it came out, it came out slowly in bits and pieces. When Richardon’s results came back, it was almost immediately announced to the public.
“My name and talent was slaughtered to the people,” Richardson tweeted.
These two athletes do have some similarities outside of the fact that they were both supposed to place in at least the top three for their respective sport; they were both failed by the people around them.
Valieva was failed by the adults around her and especially her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, who has been known to be extremely tough on her athletes and make them retire from skating far too soon.
I think if Valieva did take the drug of her own volition, it was to impress a coach that was cruel and wouldn’t stop until Valieva was the best.
I believe that Valieva may have been coerced into taking this drug by her coach or other authoritative figures so that ROC could win another gold medal.
In Valieva’s story, the other Olympic figure skaters were also failed by the countless organizations that didn’t hold her accountable; their successes were taken away from them because of a scandal that gained attention due to her ability to compete.
For Richardson, she was failed by the WADA for keeping marijuana/THC on the list of banned substances after so many states have legalized it. She was also failed by the prejudice in the United States around Black women and drugs.
Richardson’s circumstance was exceptional, a word that was used to describe Valieva’s case after her hearing, because of her mother.
Both situations are extremely unfair and upsetting to a multitude of people, but if there is a silver lining, it is that Tutberidze could be held accountable. Many hope the WADA will review the marijuana ban as its stigma and legality has changed since it was added to the list.