Sunday, February 20, 2022

Russian Skater Doping Scandal Stains Olympics

I have been much less enthralled this year in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.  And I’m not alone.  There are many reasons for this global Olympic ennui.  International publicity on China’s horrendous human rights record resulted in several nations, including ours, issuing diplomatic boycotts.  The Peng Shuai affair was also a turn off when this Chinese tennis athlete made an accusation of sexual harassment against a Chinese government official.  Then, she disappeared and issued a statement denying her allegation.  Sounds like she was being squeezed in a Chinese Olympic vice.  The shameless spinelessness of the International Olympic Committee is itself a reason to boycott watching the games.  And Americans and folks abroad have been absorbed with the ongoing pandemic and worsening economic realities.  Many are preoccupied with inflation or rising crime or an imminent war in Europe.  For them, watching the Olympics isn’t even on the list.

And to those who have tuned in, they have been treated to the Kamila Valieva affair, a debacle that will be remembered for decades.  She is a 15-year-old Russian virtuoso skater.  She failed a drug test.  And yet she was permitted to continue competing deferring the investigation and ultimate judgement until months or years after the games conclude.  

5 Rings Representing


The correct decision, of course, would have been to suspend her from the games.  Such a decision would have spared the bulk of the following consequences that predictably occurred.

The integrity of the Olympic Games has been further tarnished.

It disrespects all of the clean athletes who have complied with the rules.

Those who earned medals in events along with Valieva had no medal ceremony, the dream of every Olympic athlete.  If Valieva is ultimately disqualified, will the remaining winners receive their medals in an Amazon delivery dropped at their front doors?

It communicates to all of us that integrity in our lives is an elastic concept. 

Valieva completely dominated all of the attention of the Olympics instead of the competitions and the athletes.  What a shame for everyone involved.  How might families and supporters of Olympic athletes feel about this?

It was another example of Russia receiving an undeserved free pass.  Remember Sochi 2014?  Is changing the name of their team to the Russia Olympic Committee an adequate consequence for years of state sponsored doping?

And, it was unfair to Valieva who will now be stigmatized forever.  And who can predict the personal health consequences that she may suffer in the future over this horrendous affair.  For coming attractions, after her final skate when she fell repeatedly, her coach at the sidelines glared at her and harshly said, “Why did you let it go?  Why did you stop fighting?  Explain”. 

It’s not relevant if Valieva was unaware that she had ingested a banned substance.  By the rules, she was ineligible regardless of how the drug found its way into her body.

In an analogous situation, the Australians deported Novak Djokovic who did not comply with the nation’s COVID-19 protocols.  Afterwards, the Australian Open proceeded without incident.  I give the Aussies a Gold Medal for this. 




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