Olympic Doping Scandal


Amid this year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, one of Russia’s expected golds became the talk of the ice-skating community following a doping scandal. It was announced that the 15-year-old figure skater Kamila Valieva had tested positive for three different heart medications in a drug test prior to the Games, including one that is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. 

Since 2018, Valieva has been under the guidance of Eteri Tutberidze—a coach infamously known in the figure skating community for her “one-and-done” Olympians. Many of her world-class skaters, despite their immense talent, are forced into early retirement due to excess strain on serious injuries or eating disorders from Tutberidze’s despotic coaching. 

Despite failing a drug test, however, the 15-year-old athlete was allowed to continue competing in the Olympics. Due to disagreements between the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, International Skating Union, International Olympic Committee and World Anti-Doping Agency, the Court of Arbitration for Sports was requested to aid with the ruling. 

However, CAS refused to suspend Valieva, on account of her status as a “protected person” under the World Anti-Doping Code, on the condition that no medal ceremony would take place should she place in the top three in any of her events. This decision, which concluded that, due to her age, Valieva may not have full control over what she voluntarily consumes, elicited uproar from competing countries and the public. 

While it would be unfortunate if Valieva was forced to withdraw from her Olympic events, it would set a very dire but necessary warning for the athletic community about the consequences of using unfair and unsustainable means to get their athletes to medal. This sentiment is echoed in the opinions of many sport commentators, including Olympic champion and 2022 U.S. figure skating coach Adam Rippon’s Twitter statement that voiced his disappointment and anger towards the young Olympian’s doping ruling. 

Though Valieva may not have had complete control over what drugs were administered into her body, this response from CAS has set an ominous precedent for future athletes in similar conditions. Due to this decision, athletes, especially younger individuals, are more susceptible to oppressive coaches that care more about accumulating accolades than the health of their athletes. 

Not to mention, Valieva’s legal team’s concoction of a story that would allow her to continue competing, further showcases the problem that Russia has had in regards to doping and other tactics they have employed to skew competitions in their favor. 

While it is heavily suspected that Tutberidze was responsible for Valieva’s failed drug test, this incident is far from Russia’s first Olympic scandal related to drug use. In the 2016 Rio Olympics, WADA reported more than 730 cancellations and declinations of drug tests by Russian athletes prior to the Olympic Games. 

It was also reported that drug administrators and doping control officers were faced with threats of expulsion when attempting to carry out drug tests. 

Protecting Valieva’s career and youth may have been the deciding factors, but this accommodation blatantly overlooks Russia’s history of drug use in sports. If anything, it’s only making it harder in the long run for the sports world in terms of fighting against the practice of doping.