The Kamila Valieva doping scandal explained


Avery Redfern, Co-Head Editor

Anyone keeping up with the 2022 Winter Olympics knows about the most recent scandal rocking the games: 15-year-old Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) tested positive for doping after leading the Russian skaters to a team gold. The results, which arrived from a Swedish lab the Friday after the event, showed that a test taken by Valieva in December came back positive for trimetazidine, a “hormone or metabolic modulator.” Despite this, Valieva was still allowed to compete in the Women’s short skate, where she finished in first place.

Initially, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) instated a provisional ban on Valieva, which would have prevented her from competing in the women’s singles event. However, because Valieva is a minor, she is considered a “protected person,” and the ban was revoked. The only consequence she’ll face? If she is to win, the medal and flower ceremony will not take place, including for the other athletes on the podium.

Fans of the sport reacted with confusion and outrage at this decision. Figure skaters like Adam Rippon and Tara Lipinski voiced their anger on Twitter, saying:

Adam Rippon (@AdamRippon) February 14, 2022
“I am so angry. The ladies event tomorrow is a complete joke. It’s not a real competition and it most likely won’t even have a medal ceremony. So many Olympic experiences stolen from clean athletes who got here without the help of performance enhancing drugs. What a shame.”


Tara Lipinski (@taralipinski) February 14, 2022
“I strongly disagree with this decision. At the end of the day, there was a positive test and there is no question in my mind that she should not be allowed to compete. Regardless of age or timing of the test/results. I believe this will leave a permanent scar on our sport.”

Other athletes — including Sha’Carri Richardson, who was barred from competing in the 2021 Summer Olympics after receiving a positive test from THC, a non-banned drug — also responded, calling out the inequalities between their scenarios.

Sha’Carri Richardson (@itskerrii) February 14, 2022
“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 is I’m a black young lady.”

Others were quick to defend Valieva, claiming that it was “hard to imagine any 15-year-old taking an illicit substance of their own volition.” Russia has a storied history of pressuring their athletes to take performance-enhancing substances: it has the highest number of competitors caught doping in the Olympic games and the most number of medals revoked for this issue as well. In addition, Valieva’s coach, Eteri Tutberidze, has faced backlash in the skating world about her extreme coaching tactics, and some believe she might be behind the scandal.

The issue will likely continue to plague the skating world even after the Olympic games conclude. Specifically, arguments about Russian involvement in the games have been called into question: the World Anti-Doping Agency’s president, Dick Pound, even called for Russia to take a “time out” for the next Olympics.

“This is going on too long, and it’s too obvious. Maybe, it’s time for a time out for Russia in the Olympics,” said Pound.