The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has ruled that Kamila Valieva, the 15-year-old Russian ice skating phenom who received a positive drug test in the middle of the Beijing Olympics, will be allowed to continue competing at the Winter Games. The Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) “takes note” of that choice, and will delay a medal ceremony if Valieva places in the top three of any of her remaining events.
Valieva helped the Russian Olympic Committee take home the gold in the figure skating team event and became the first woman figure skater in history to land a quadruple jump in the Olympics. But the news of her positive test for trimetazidine, a heart medication that might increase endurance, has thrown her recent performance and athleticism into question, as well as Russia’s tendency to farm 15-year-old phenoms like cattle.
The panel said it “considered fundamental principles of fairness, proportionality, irreparable harm and the balance of interests” between Valieva and the organizations who wish to suspend her from the Games.
The CAS’s decision to allow Valieva to continue on in the competition has raised plenty of angry eyebrows, but it looks even worse when held up to Black track star Sha’Carri Richardson’s own substance controversy. Richardson was expected to medal at the Summer Olympics last year, but was banned from the Olympic trials after testing positive for marijuana, nullifying both her win and her spot in the Tokyo games. She received a 30-day suspension from the USADA, and was not on the Olympic roster released by USA Track and Field.
A few minor things to note: Marijuana IS NOT a performance-enhancing drug. Richardson’s “drug use” also occurred in the wake of her mother’s sudden death, which she says she used to cope with her own grief. Lastly, Richardson is a Black athlete, and that just doesn’t sit right with the sporting governing bodies.
Valieva has been happily infantilized in the press, noted for liking stuffed animals and her dreams of traveling the world. Unlike Richardson, however, Valieva tested positive for a drug that could’ve given her the edge she needed to complete the same quad jump she was lauded for. And, of course, Valieva is white.
Both international and national sporting governing bodies have continually denied Black athletes rights and opportunities across sporting events and federations, while white athletes who make much more disturbing mistakes are given the benefit of a doubt (even when Valieva’s motherland has been banned from the Olympics for a coordinated statewide doping scandal!!!) or a slap on the wrist and allowed to continue on in the name of fairness. There is an assumption of innocence quickly handed to white athletes that is non-existent for athletes of color, and the coddling of white figure skater in the middle of an Olympic event is sure proof of that.
If Valieva can skate, then Richardson should’ve been allowed to fucking run. To borrow a quick word from Richardson: “PERIOD.”