Debate Persists over Differing Decisions surrounding Drugs and Athletes

Willie Brazil details the ongoing discussion on possible double standards involving doping and Olympic sports, specifically involving American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson and Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva.

Doping at the Olympic Games certainly isn’t something that is a new issue, but within the past year the conversation involving those who have been caught and the discrepancy between certain offenses, has gained a lot of attention.

When American track star Sha’Carri Richardson entered her Olympic qualifiers for the 100 meter dash in June, an event in which she was a heavy favorite, it had only been about one week since the passing of her biological mother. She had been dealing with the trauma of the event and found herself in a low mental state because of it.

Despite this personal challenge, she placed first in the qualifying race with a time that was just under eleven seconds, seemingly giving her the opportunity to represent her country at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo.

Soon after, however, her bid would be stripped away. According to the United States Anti-Doping Agency, Richardson tested positive for THC, the chemical found in marijuana, just one day prior. Though it is not found that THC or the use of marijuana can give a person any type of unfair competing advantage, it is still marked as a banned substance in the Olympics. The offense resulted in her disqualification from her signature race, the 100 meter race, and a one-month ban retroactive to June 28th.

View a timeline comparing events here in link: TimelineJS Embed (knightlab.com)

On February 7, 2022, a similar scandal arose at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Kamila Valieva, a very talented young Russian figure skater, was found to have also tested positive previously for a banned foreign substance. But, this time the drug in which she had tested positive for was a noted performance enhancer, known as trimetazidine. Trimetazidine is a drug that is used to treat chest pain due to reduced blood flow to the heart. The drug is banned both in and out of competition by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and is labeled a performance enhancer because of its ability to improve endurance and increase blood flow to the heart.

There are a few notable differences between the two athletes’ situations. For one, Richardson and Valieva have a six-year age gap (Richardson 21, Valieva 15) and Valieva, being a minor.

A similarity is that both tested positive before the Olympics, but the positive test for Valieva was only disclosed while she had already started competing at the Olympics. She ended up falling numerous times and fell out of medal contention in the individual figure skating competition. Also the Russian team ended up not receiving its gold medal for winning the team event, in which Valieva starred. Still the discrepancy was noted, perhaps reflecting how seriously the U.S and Russian sport bodies take doping, or perhaps as Richardson indicated racism was at play.

Explainer Journalism for the Reynolds Sandbox by Willie Brazil

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