JAIME HENDRIE | NEWS
During the middle of the already controversial 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, it was revealed that Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) athlete, 15 year-old Kamila Valieva, tested positive for the banned drug Trimetazidine during a mandatory drug test in December 2021. Trimetazidine is a banned heart medication, known to be taken by athletes during competition to improve their endurance.
Russian athletes in previous years have been thrust into the spotlight, especially following the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games due to their widespread, state-sponsored use of banned drugs to improve their performance. This resulted in Russian athletes being unable to compete under Team Russia. Instead, they were given the team name ‘Russia Olympic Committee’ (ROC), stripping Russia of the glory of any medal wins effective from December 17th 2020, until December 17th 2022, upon which, it will be decided whether athletes may compete again for Russia, or continue as ROC.
Valieva’s positive test for the banned drug calls into question a plethora of issues, particularly those related to how responsible a 15 year-old can be for testing positive to a banned drug, and how much at fault the adults around her, such as her parents, coaches, and teammates, are in this difficult situation. According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, minors are not subject to the same public reporting system as adults due to the need to protect minors who may test positive. This was so in Valieva’s case, where the results were not announced until two months after the initial test. This was because she was doing well in the Olympics, being standout in the women’s single program, and helping Team ROC to win the team challenges.
Despite the positive test, Valieva was still allowed to compete, which called into question the International Olympic Committee’s neutral position regarding positive tests for banned drugs. This decision was controversial especially as Sha’Carri Richardson, who qualified to represent Team USA in the Tokyo 2020-2021 Summer Olympic Games, was banned after testing positive for cannabis and is notably of black heritage. Richardson herself called out the IOC upon the decision on Valieva despite testing positive, and called into question whether an inherent racial bias or the fact that Valieva is a minor contributed to the approach taken. The IOC refused to comment on the matter, and were more focused on dealing with the Valieva case at hand.
In the competition ensuing the positive result, Valieva’s previously tight quad jumpers were no match for the immense stress she was placed under by her coaches, teammates, and more importantly, herself, in a bid to prove her abilities in the wake of such an allegation. After Valieva’s fated program, her coaches were seen on the sidelines scolding her for her performance and for giving up throughout it, to which Valieva responded tearfully. Further concerns were raised about the cold demeanour her coaches and teammates showed to her, leading to more stress on Valieva. Luckily for the International Olympic Committee, Valieva’s placing meant they would not have to strip medals from her or from the ROC team later on. From a current political standpoint, such an event may even have the potential to worsen political tensions between Russia and the world…
If this situation proves anything, it is that Russia is placing themselves in a very precarious situation right now in the world, whether that be in light of one of their Olympics scandals, or their geo-political tensions. Russia is surely making themselves known to everyone for some very serious offences…