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Russian skater Kamila Valieva finishes 4th after controversial ruling

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

Sydney McKinney-Williams, Staff Writer

Kamila Valieva after a less than successful performance during the free skate event. Photo//Nikolay Muratkin/Getty Images

Kamila Valieva, amidst the overflow of controversy and public debate, placed fourth in the women’s individual skating competition last week. The 15-year-old Valieva was cleared to compete days before the event despite a failed drug test in December 2021.

It was revealed on February 8, 2022 that Valieva tested positive for trimetazidine (TMZ), a banned substance by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and she was subsequently suspended from the games immediately.

Furthermore, an investigation was underway into Valieva and her coaches. The medal ceremony for the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) was also delayed after they took gold in the team event the day before.

Valieva appealed the suspension and was later allowed to compete in the short program on February 15th, which she placed first in. This then allowed her to move on to the free skate finals on the 17th. It was at this event she missed the podium and fell into 4th.

Kamila Valieva competes in the short program after appealing a doping case. Photo//AFP/Getty Images

Trimetazidine, the drug Valieva tested positive for, is not cleared for people under 18. There was speculation that, since it is meant to increase heart performance, that it could also increase athletic performance. TMZ, however, has not been tested in this light, so there is no telling if it actually is considered performance enhancing.

TMZ also has side effects of dizziness, loss of balance, lightheadedness, and fainting. The drug has just as much potential to be harmful as it does to be helpful.

Valieva’s lawyer stated that she had consumed some of her grandfather’s water which contained the pill in it for his medicine and that it was not intentional. Many people are saying this was highly unlikely since it is an oral medication and normally taken as a pill.

This argument set well with the three judges at her hearing as she was still allowed to compete in all events after the scandal.

This situation also caused people to look back on Sha’Carri Richardson’s situation at the Summer Olympic Games in 2021.

Richardson was given a one-month ban for testing positive for cannabis right before the Olympic Games which prohibited her from competing in the 100-meter individual event.

Sha’Carri Richardson and Kamilia Valieva. Photo//Patrick Smith//Getty Images; Matthew Stockman//Getty Images

Richardson said she was using cannabis to cope with the death of her mother. She tweeted, “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.”

Richardson also questioned why Valieva’s results were not revealed sooner, but rather revealed in the midst of the Olympics.

"Not one Black athlete has been about to compete with a case going on, I don't care what they say," Richardson says. “It’s all in the skin.”

People also talked about the fact the court thought about the “irreparable harm” that suspending Valieva for her mistake would cause, but Richardson was not given the same luxury.

The U.S..Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s CEO released a statement saying: "We are disappointed by the message this decision sends.” Them, along with many others, feel Valieva's ruling is not equitable to the athletes who did things the right way.

Valieva was met with cold treatment and criticism from her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, after her disappointing and unsmooth finals performance.

Valieva and her coach Eteri Tutberidze after her placing fourth. Photo// Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images

Tutberidze was seen being pretty critical of Valieva’s performance immediately after her finish, which did not sit right with viewers.

International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, gave his opinion about Valieva’s team as well.

"I must say I was very, very disturbed yesterday when I watched the competition on TV," Bach said. "When I afterwards saw how she was received by her closest entourage, with such, what appeared to be a tremendous coldness, it was chilling to see this."

"Rather than giving her comfort, rather than to try to help her, you could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance," continued Bach.

Tutberidze responded back by saying, "I am still at a loss from the assessment of our work by the esteemed Mr. Bach."

She also proceeded to say Valieva, although very fragile, is also a very strong athlete.

Valieva was also able to receive her gold medal with the rest of Russia’s Olympic figure skating team. The ceremony happened after being put on hold, and it was planned to be delayed longer if Valieva placed higher in the finals.

Russia Olympic figure skating team at the gold medal ceremony. Photo//Getty Images

This shocking and unforgettable series of events will forever taint Valieva’s young career. Only time will tell what kind of precedence this sets for future athletes that fall into similar situations.

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