This Year’s Russian Doping Scandal, Explained

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We’re well into another Winter Games, but this time around, the normally exciting semi-annual event has been marred by allegations of doping. Below, get all the details on the Russian figure skater who has been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, what steps the International Olympic Committee have taken, and how the skating community is reacting.

Who is Kamila Valieva?

Valieva is a 15-year-old Russian figure skater who is the current world record holder for the women’s short program, free skating, and total score.

What has she been accused of doing?

Last week, it was revealed that Valieva had tested positive for trimetazidine, a heart medication that is considered a performance-enhancing drug and banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. (Valieva’s team has claimed that the positive result may have been caused by a glass of water contaminated with her grandfather’s heart medication.)

What happened after Valieva tested positive?

On Monday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Valieva could still compete in the Olympics, saying that it based its ruling on “exceptional circumstances” (among other issues, Valieva is considered a “protected person” because she is a minor). For their part, Olympic officials have ruled that medals will be withheld in any event in which Valieva places in the top three until after her doping case is resolved.

How is the skating world reacting?

Not well, to say the least. “It’s all just so unfair,” said former skater and current coach Adam Rippon. “It’s also so unfair to all of these ladies because their whole Olympic experience is now wrapped up in the controversy because a country doesn’t want to play by the damn rules.” Sarah Hirshland, the chief executive of the U.S. committee, said in a statement, “We are disappointed by the messages this sends. This appears to be another chapter in the systemic and pervasive disregard for clean sport by Russia.”

Why is Valieva allowed to compete after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs when Sha’Carri Richardson was barred from Olympic competition after testing positive for marijuana use?

Great question. Richardson, for her part, is wondering the same thing.


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