Kamila Valieva, a 15-year-old Russian skater, was allowed to compete in her event despite testing positive for trimetazidine, a banned medication that increases blood flow to the heart.
Sha’carri Richardson, 21, a track star who won the 100-meter sprint in the U.S. trials, was met with a thirty day suspension after testing positive for THC, a non performance enhancement drug found in marijuana, on June 19.
Richardson took to Twitter to announce her reservations around Kamila Valieva’s eligibility to participate in the games, saying, “Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mines? 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 black young lady.”
The Court of Arbitration for Sport(CAS) ruled that Valieva could still compete due to the different anti-doping rules for minors, or “protected persons.” However, the International Olympic Committee(IOC) executive board ruled that if Valieva were to place in her event, there would be no public medal and flower ceremony.
The United States Olympic Committee condemned the decision that CAS made in regard to Valieva’s eligibility to compete.
“Athletes have the right to know they are competing on a level playing field. Unfortunately, today that right is being denied,” committee CEO Sarah Hirshland said in a statement. “This appears to be another chapter in the systemic and pervasive disregard for clean sport by Russia.”
According to the CAS panel, Valieva might suffer “irreparable harm” if she is not allowed to compete.
CAS took Valieva’s age into account, saying that she cannot be held to the same legal and moral standards as an adult athlete because she is a minor. Eteri Tutberidze, Valieva’s coach, will be probed for her possible complicity in Valieva’s doping violation.
Valieva shockingly tumbled multiple times during her event, leaving her in fourth place behind two of her teammates, 17-year-old Alexandra Trusova in second, and 17-year-old Anna Shcherbakova in first. As soon as Valieva returned from the ice, Eteri Tutberidze grabbed her hands and asked, “Why did you let it go? Why did you stop fighting?” A tearful Valieva remained silent as her coach expressed her disappointment.
IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said during a Feb. 16 press conference, “Every single case is very different. In terms of Ms. Richardson’s case, she tested positive on June 19, quite a way ahead of the Tokyo Games. Her results came in early order for USADA to deal with the case on time, before the games. Ms. Richardson accepted a one month period of ineligibility which began on June 28. I would suggest that there isn’t a great deal of similarity between the two cases.”
Sha’carri Richardson called out the situation as a double standard, tweeting, “[Valieva] failed in December and the world just now know however my [results] were posted within a week and my name & talent was slaughtered to the people.”
“It’s all in the skin,” Richardson said in another tweet. “Btw THC definitely is not a performance enhance!!!!” Richardson added.
Richardson’s grievances are more than warranted, as she wasn’t allowed to compete due to her intake of marijuana, which she later said was in response to learning of her mother’s passing. From an outside lens, it appears that there is a double standard, however, the committee who suspended Richardson was not involved with the decision to allow Valieva to compete in her event. It was the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that suspended Richardson, under international rules set by the larger World Anti-Doping Agency.
This was neither Richardson’s nor Valieva’s year at the Olympics; however, both are phenomenal, extraordinarily talented and young individuals who will soon be taking the world by storm.
“I just want to let y’all know, this’ll be the last time the Olympics don’t see Sha’Carri Richardson,” Richardson said in a “Today” show interview after her suspension was issued. “And this’ll be the last time the U.S. doesn’t come home with the gold medal in the 100. And I feel sorry for anybody who lines up against me when I come back.”