Russia’s Long History of Doping Continues with Kamila Valieva

On the morning of February 14th, the International Olympic Committee ruled that fan-favorite figure skater Kamila Valieva, 15, would not receive any medals or ceremonies for her present and future Olympic accomplishments after she tested positive for trimetazidine, a banned substance with stimulant properties.

File:Russian Olympic Committee flag.svg - Wikimedia Commons
The Russian Olympic Committee’s official flag.

This recent doping, or using drugs to boost athletes’ performance, is only one of over 150 that Russia has been responsible for, ever since the 1980s, where Russian athletes began taking testosterone and other performance-enhancing drugs that tests hadn’t been developed for yet. In 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency banned Russia from all international sports after their state-sponsored doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Since then, Russian athletes have been competing under the title, the “Russian Olympic Committee,” and are using their own separate flag and anthem to represent their country unofficially. 

Valieva’s case began when she was administered a drug test on December 25th at the Russian Figure Skating Championships in St. Petersburg, Russia. On February 9th, Valieva helped the ROC win gold in the figure skating team event, where she landed the first-ever quadruple jump performed by a woman in the Olympics. A day later, her drug test results were declared positive by a lab in Stockholm, Sweden. The next day, Valieva was notified and provisionally suspended from the Olympics by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, which is currently suspended from the World Anti-Doping Agency. The medal ceremony for the figure skating team event was postponed and Valiva’s positive drug test was leaked to the public. On the 9th, Valieva challenged the positive result and got her suspension lifted from the Russian Anti-Doping Agency. The International Testing Agency confirmed Valieva’s drug test failure and the organization is currently appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, calling for Valieva’s suspension to be reinstated. Currently, Valieva can still compete while her case is being debated, but she cannot receive any medals or participate in any ceremonies.

The world has reacted to this event in many ways, with most western views being that Valieva was let down by her country and that Russia should be ashamed for skewing results for yet another olympic event. “Unfortunately, either way, for the sixth consecutive Olympic Games, Russia has hijacked the competition and stolen the moment from clean athletes and the public,” said US Anti-Doping Agency CEO, Travis Tygart. Tygart also exclaimed, “In addition to athletes and the public, this young athlete has been terribly let down by the Russians and the global anti-doping system that unfairly cast her into this chaos.”

Conversely, Russian officials applauded the decision to lift Valieva’s suspension, claiming that it was unjust and that there isn’t enough evidence to make any conclusions. The Russian Figure Skating Federation President, Alexander Gorshkov, said, “I’m very happy for Valieva and glad that common sense and justice triumphed.” The Russian Olympic Committee expressed their sympathy for Valieva, “We do not know how many tears and what moral strength this whole crazy situation has cost Kamila. To go out and train every day with a decision hanging over you, not knowing what will happen tomorrow…”

Anti-doping agencies and athlete organizations around the world are calling for change and more incentives for Russia to not use doping in future games. Former World Anti-Doping Director General David Howman said that this event highlights the dire need to sort out issues in their drug testing methods in order to get results back before the athletes compete in events. In a Global Athlete Group statement, the organization said, “The fact that Kamila Valieva has been found to have a performance-enhancing substance in her system is evidence of abuse of a minor, Sport should be protecting its athletes, not damaging them.” The Global Athlete Group hopes that people around the world will see Valieva’s doping case as a “wake-up call” and to “stand together to demand reform.”