15-year-old Kamila Valieva has been the breakout star at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games. The Russian figure skater has led her country to the gold, as well as winning two personal gold medals. Despite her undeniable talent and stunning performances, Valieva’s career is not without controversy. Centered in a doping scandal, Valieva’s eligibility to participate and validity of her wins has been brought into question.
In December of 2021, Valieva tested positive for the banned angina drug, trimetazidine, which her lawyer claimed Valieva accidently took due to contamination from her grandfather’s medication. Ordinarily, when an athlete fails a doping test, they are disqualified from competing in the upcoming Olympics. Because of delays in testing and her status as a protected person due to her age, it was ruled that Valieva could still compete in the Beijing Games.
People took issue with Valieva being allowed to complete. NBC commentators, Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir refused to speak during Valieva’s performance.
“We should not have seen [her] skate” Lipinski said.
Many feel that Valieva being allowed to compete threatens the integrity of the Olympic Games, which in the past has prided itself in being a clean and fair competition. Russia has been the center of attention for doping violations for years, having 46 Olympic medals being stripped from athletes after failing doping tests.
“This is going on too long, and it's too obvious,” said Dick Pound, a senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) member. “Maybe, it's time for a time out for Russia in the Olympics."
Allegations of double standards and racism were brought up by American sprinter, Sha’Carri Richardson, another young competitor who was banned from competing in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo after testing positive for cannabis, a legal substance in parts of the United States. Richardson, who is of legal age to use cannabis, says she consumed the substance to cope with her mother’s recent death. Race almost certainly plays a role in the difference between the handling of the two cases, as Valieva is white, and Richardson is Black.
“Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mine?” Richardson said. “The only difference I see is I’m a black young lady.”
Ultimately, the goal of the Olympics is to provide an opportunity for athletes at the top of their sport to compete in a fair and equal way. The future of doping regulations, racist double standards, and the validity of Valieva’s performances are all issues that have caused controversy and will require further investigation.
“This is a slap in the face to the Olympic Games, to our sport and to every athlete that has ever competed at the Olympics clean,” Weir said. “It's hard to make it to the Olympics and anybody that will try to find the easy way out is in the wrong and should not be able to compete.”