American track star and former Olympics hopeful Sha’Carri Richardson is upset that Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva will be allowed to participate in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics despite a failed drug test.
What makes the optics worse is that Richardson was banned for marijuana (which, although prohibited, was legally used in the state of Oregon) whereas Valieva tested positive for trimetazidine, a heart medication that can be used to enhance athletic performance at a higher heart rate and for a longer period of time.
“Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mines” Richardson asked on Twitter. “The only difference I see is I’m a Black young lady,” she added.
Richardson admitted she used marijuana to cope with anxiety stemming from her mother’s death, and she was resultantly disallowed from racing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. However, Valieva claimed her unintentional use happened because of confusion with her grandfather’s medication, so the Court of Arbitration for Sport opted to clear her for competition.
There are some other differences that have come up, though. Firstly, Richardson’s age at the time of use (21 years old) means she wouldn’t have been considered a “protected person” by the CAS, and she was, therefore, subject to harsher penalties than Valieva (who is 15 years old). The protocol for situations like these is not as clear-cut with regard to the use of performance-enhancing drugs and minors.
“The panel considered that preventing the athlete to compete at the Olympic Games would cause her irreparable harm in the circumstances,” CAS Director-General Matthieu Reeb said.
Secondly, it was the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) who suspended Richardson, under guidelines set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The USA Olympic Track and Field Team then upheld the decision and chose not to contest it. By contrast, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, which runs the doping tests for its own country’s athletes, decided to let the case go to arbitration instead. But it’s still not clear why Valieva’s failed result came to light so recently when she underwent testing six weeks ago, well before the Olympics.
Although Valieva will be allowed to compete, there will be no medal ceremony if she medals. And it is worth noting that she is in first place at the time of this article’s publishing.