By Madeleine Pearce
Boston University News Service
American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson took to Twitter last week to question why Russian skater Kamila Valieva was allowed to compete in the Beijing Winter Olympics following a failed drug test.
Richardson, a gold-medal favorite, was scheduled to compete in the Tokyo Olympics over the summer before a positive drug test led to her suspension. The winner of the U.S. Olympic team trials tested positive for THC, an active ingredient in marijuana, and lost the opportunity to run in the women’s 100 meters. Richardson admitted to smoking marijuana after learning of the death of her biological mother.
Last week, Richardson posted a series of tweets following the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to allow Russian skater Kamila Valieva to continue competing after testing positive for trimetazidine — a banned heart medication.
“Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mine?” Richardson tweeted. “My mother died and I can’t run and was also favored to place top 3. The only difference I see is I’m a young black lady.”
The sample from the positive test result was taken on Dec. 5, 2021. Valieva’s results were not released until more than 40 days after the test date, when she had already led Russia to win a gold medal in team figure skating in Beijing on Feb. 7.
Previously, the court decided Valieva’s status as a “protected person” prevented her from facing provisional suspension and argued removing her from the competition would cause “irreparable harm” to her.
The World Anti-Doping Agency lists a “protected person” as an athlete under the age of 16.
“If she’s talented enough to be against the best in the world, then she should be held, in many respects, to the same standards and expectations as they are,” said Anthony Sherrod Blakely, a professor at Boston University and chair of the Associated Press Sports Editors diversity committee.
The International Olympic Committee responded to the court’s decision by postponing medal ceremonies should Valieva place in the top three.
“But still, to have someone who has a positive doping test competing in these Olympic games is just a slap in the face to all of those athletes doing it the right way,” said Christine Brennan of CBS in response to the IOC’s announcement.
The scandal surrounding Valieva’s positive doping test follows Russia’s lengthy history of athletes using performance-enhancing drugs. In 2019, a report outlining a state-sponsored program for athletes to use illegal drugs led to Russia’s two-year ban from the Olympics. The ban prevented Russian athletes from performing under the Russian flag and playing their national anthem resulting in several Russian athletes losing medals.
“It should be no surprise that they are once again involved in some type of doping scandal,” said Blakely. “There’s a lot of irony for the justification the IOC has for allowing this athlete to continue in and not have a medal ceremony.”