Opinion: Refusing to uphold doping rules for Valieva damages integrity of figure skating

As a response to the recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the International Skating Union (ISU) has banned all Russian and Belarusian skaters from competing in the ISU World Junior and World figure skating championships in the latest sanctions placed on Russia. Which is less than a month after Russian athlete, Kamila Valieva, was caught doping at the Beijing Olympics.

The 15-year-old figure skating star, Kamila Valieva, is one of the best athletes in figure skating and is known for her beautiful leg extensions and almost perfect jumps. However, just days before the women’s free skate, reports came back from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that she had tested positive for a banned performance enhancing substance, trimetazidine. 

Valieva tested positive for trimetazidine, a heart medication used to help the body manage metabolism and endurance more efficiently and help the flow of oxygen in the body. Trimetazidine is therefore banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. After Valieva had been exposed to using the banned substance, she acknowledged that she had also been taking two other substances to help with heart functions, however these substances weren’t banned. Even so, the fact remains she was utilizing substances to help her perform better while the other contestants were skating clean. 

When the WADA discovered and announced that Valieva had used a banned substance, they should have disqualified her from the event. The Olympics is known for being a fair event where top athletes of the world get the opportunity to show the world what they do best. Yet Valieva’s case was taken to the Court of Arbitration for sport (CAS) where they ended up ruling in favor of her staying. The CAS said that because Valiena is a “minor” she is a “protected person” under the Olympics rules, stating that not letting Valieva compete would result in “irreparable harm.” 

This means that given Valieva is a minor the rules and terms that she follows are different from the adult competitors which shouldn’t exist. It is completely unfair and disrespectful to the other competitors who put in years of hard work and dedication to be able to be at the Olympics. Each competitor should be equal and follow the same rules as one another to achieve the medals fairly. If minors don’t face the same rules and consequences as an adult would receive, then they should not be able to compete in the Winter Olympics to begin with. 

Despite the age, all athletes should be clean of any performance enhancing drugs and Valieva should not be an exception to this rule even if she is a minor.  

Due to this special situation, no medals were given to silver medalist USA and bronze medalist Japan who made it to the podium in the team skate. Imagine working hours everyday to finally be able to give everything you’ve worked for, and when you finally earn it, it’s not given to you because of a cheater. That is devastating to the athletes who earned their medal rightfully.

The entire doping scandal changed the direction of the women’s freeskate and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) agreed that if Kamila were to place there would be no medal ceremony, which for a variety of reasons is not right. The skaters who earned medals should be able to receive their medals, and Kamila should just not receive a medal. However, in the end, Kamila ended up dropping from first to fourth place, but the decision of the CAS still was not the right choice.

The original reason for the CAS allowing Kamila to compete was to prevent her from any harm, but this reason ended up having the opposite effect. All the pressure from the scandal had shown when Kamila fell multiple times during her free skate. By the end of the disastrous and possibly one of her worst skates, Kamila burst into tears, and it was clear to see her mental state was in shambles. 

During the performance and with each fall, you could see Kamila try to compose herself multiple times, and it was visible to see by the end of her skate that her mental health was in worse condition than before. The IOC president mentioned how she may have preferred to pack her bags and head home and leave this story behind rather than try and act as if nothing happened which does show choices the IOC makes are not always the best.

As the events of yet another doping scandal from Russia began to spread, many of the other athletes’ accomplishments were overshadowed and at times not regarded because of the entire situation. Many other figure skaters were bombarded by reporters asking questions related to Kamila rather than to themselves and their own performances which casted a darker shadow on the situation. 

This scandal has brought to light many issues lying within the Olympics and some of which have not been looked into. Valieva should have begun packing her bags when news of her doping was announced, and she should not have been able to compete.  

Even though the only reason she was able to compete was due to her age, the decision that was supposed to protect her ended up worsening the problem. The Olympics is an event that is meant to show the world the top athletes in the sports they strive in which is why it’s important athletes are held to the same standard.

If a competitor is too young to comply with the rules and terms any other athlete has to face, then they are too young to compete at all.