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A BROKEN SYSTEM: WHAT THE RUSSIA’S DOPING SCANDAL SAYS ABOUT FIGURE SKATING
By: Chloe Huang
The Beijing Winter Olympics of 2022 was supposed to be something fun. An event to cheer everyone up after two years of lockdown. For some viewers, maybe it was. But for figure skating fans, the Beijing Olympics brought the worst scandal of figure skating in almost three decades.
In February of 2022, it was revealed that 15-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva tested positive for the drug trimetazidine, a heart medication banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency as it could be used to improve endurance. However, she was still allowed to compete in the Women’s singles because of a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to uphold the decision of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) to lift a ban stopping Valieva from competing.
In their ruling, it is stated that because Valieva is a "protected person,” or someone under 16, stopping her from competing "would cause her irreparable harm." Yet, the ruling failed to mention the other thirty skaters they are causing “irreparable harm” to by allowing a doping athlete to skate.
This is not Russia’s first doping scandal. In 2015, the world found out about Russia’s state sponsored doping program. However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) did not punish Russia severely. Russian athletes were still allowed to compete, just under the country/organization “Russian Olympic Committee" instead of Russia. In addition, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), which played an extensive role in manipulating athlete samples, was allowed to continue operating without "any special monitoring or supervision," according to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
hese surface level consequences did not change Russia’s sport industry at all, as many predicated. “Every athlete stuck in that system is expected to continue as business as usual,” Rob Koehler, director general of the advocacy group Global Athlete, said. “Because if you look, business is as usual.” WADA’s inaction hints at a larger problem in anti-doping regulations and in figure skating overall.
WADA, as a whole, is a broken and ineffective organization. For one, it doesn’t even give out punishments for doping cases. Instead, it relies on each countries’ doping agency to do so instead. But how can we rely on RUSADA, which was found to be tampering with athletes’ drug test samples in 2015, to give out fair consequences to one of their own?
These issues have been here for a very long time. This scandal just exposed them. But with Russia’s war on Ukraine, it is easy to bury this as another scandal in figure skating’s long and messy history. Most likely, no consequences will come, for Russia or for WADA. The organizations here will walk away unscathed. But will the athletes?