A promising young skater, in fact, a rising star in the figure skating world, Kamila Valieva, has, unfortunately, become the latest face of the Russian doping scandal.
The fifteen-year-old figure skater landed the first quadruple jumps by a woman at the Olympics, drawing praise and paving the way for her team to the top position on the Olympic podium. But, the celebrations did not last long.
The next day, news broke that Kamila Valieva had tested positive for a banned heart medication, trimetazidine, at the Russian Figure Skating Championships in St. Petersburg, in December. Trimetazidine can improve athletic performance by increasing blood flow efficiency. At the time, she was provisionally suspended by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), but the decision was overturned the next day.
Following the news, the Court of Arbitration for Sport met and allowed Valieva to compete in the individual event. The main reason given for such a ruling was that, as a minor, she is a "protected person" subject to different rules than adult competitors. The CAS also said the move was meant to avoid "irreparable harm" to the young skater. The International Olympic Committee decided not to conduct medal ceremonies if Valieva qualified for a podium finish.
Kamila's lawyers say that trimetazidine got into her body through her grandfather's medicine.
While a full investigation is underway, it is unclear if her team will be allowed to retain the gold medal they won the day before the news broke. The "emotionally tired" skater finished in fourth place, allowing the other winners to have their triumphs at the Olympics celebrated with a medal ceremony.
Needless to say, the unconventional ruling by the CAS and the IOC's very lenient stance drew sharp criticism from sportspersons around the world. "Dirty cheaters, and we are accommodating them. I don't know how the Olympics recovers from this," said Adam Rippon, the U.S. figure skater whose team finished with a bronze at the 2018 Games. "They are a factory that pumps out children who can compete, up to a certain point. It doesn't feel like the coaches involved in the ladies' program are coaches at all, but dog trainers; they're running a circus."
The lax attitude of the Russian authorities, who have been accused of engaging in a systemic doping program, is explicit. As it is, Russia is banned from the Olympics. The country has been serving out a four-year prohibition, which was shortened to two years, since 2019. The ban followed an investigation conducted by the World Doping Agency that uncovered that more than a thousand Russian athletes were either involved or, in some manner, benefited from the Russian government-sponsored doping programs between 2011 and 2015.
Russian athletes who were not part of the doping program appealed and were permitted to compete in the Games under the ROC banner, which stands for the Russian Olympic Committee. Some believe the ban is being circumvented by permitting participation under the ROC.
People from different walks of life point out that such decisions will erode the faith of the public and the athletes in sporting organizations like the CAS. Olympic-level sportspersons dedicate most of their lives to training and reaching the heights of glory. Many feel that the image of the Olympics itself, billed as the greatest sporting event and a platform for healthy competition, has been irrevocably tarnished.
Only time will tell if Kamila is innocent or not. Meanwhile, inflated sentiments of national pride and egoistical authorities have compromised the very ethos of the Olympics games. The notion of fair play and sportsmanship is being sacrificed in the race for gold.
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