Two Olympic athletes both tested positive for banned substances before the Olympic games began. One was removed from the competition completely, while the other remained in the competition. What’s the difference?
If you are a fan of the Olympics, you know that there is a lot of controversy regarding banned substances in the recent Olympic events. 15-year-old Russian figure skater, Kamila Valieva, tested positive for a banned substance called trimetazidine in December, which came to light after Valieva already competed.
According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, the drug is a hormone and “metabolic modulator.” It is banned from the Olympics because it could be used to help an athlete “perform at a higher heart rate for a longer period of time.” However, because Valieva is under 16 years old, she is considered a “protected person” and instead of getting suspended, she is not responsible for the situation.
On the contrary, last summer Sha’Carri Richardson, an American track-and-field sprinter, tested positive for THC and was suspended from competing at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. She allegedly used the drug after grieving the death of her mother. This raises the question of race as THC has not been proven to enhance the performance of athletes, but trimetazidine can. Sha’Carri tweeted “Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mine? 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 Slate finds it interesting how marijuana was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency because it “harms the health of the athlete and is against the spirit of the sport.” On one hand it was argued that THC helps athletes perform under pressure and alleviate stress experienced before and during competition. On the other hand, it was hard to see how THC could enhance a track star in running.
The Slate believes that it was not smart for Sha’Carri to use marijuana; however, it is understandable why she would in a state where it is legal while enduring a personal struggle. With Kamila, it is frustrating to see someone so young dope to perform when she is most likely an amazing athlete to begin with.
This brings up another question, and it’s about Russia’s policy of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Russia has a lot of rules about performance enhancing drugs that are different than the Olympics standards. With this in mind, we speculated that Kamila was most likely taking performance enhancing drugs that were legal in Russia before competing in the Olympics. The test results were from December, about six weeks prior to the Olympic games. According to a New York Times article where Dr. Benjamin J. Levine, a professor of exercise science at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, was interviewed, he stated that the drugs are more likely to hurt her than help her.
This situation highlights the treatment of Russian athletes and how the coaches are notoriously abusive. Kamila’s own coach, Eteri Tutberidze, is well known for abusive tactics to train her students. Most of Tutberidze’s students retire in their teens due to serious injuries. In hindsight, this will most likely be Kamila’s first and last Olympics.
In the end, The Slate believes that if a rule is set, it must be followed. If Valieva tested positive for a banned substance, no matter her age, or talent, she should be suspended from the Olympics like anyone else. There are many reasons or excuses to why there should be exceptions to the rule, but if you allow exceptions the rule is pointless.
This is a sad situation, and nobody likes ruining people’s dreams, but rules must be followed to allow a fair competition across the board.