The Beijing Olympics: A story of a drug scandal

Hannah Roberts, Staff Reporter

  On February 7, 2022, the figure skating team event at the Olympics ended and medals were to be awarded. First place went to the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), second place to The United States, and third place was given to Japan. However, these medals were not awarded on that day or the next. It’s been a year and these medals have still not been given out.

  This is due to a drug scandal. On February 7, 2022, it was only known that the scandal involved a Russian figure skater who had participated in the team event. The world went wild as the medal ceremony was postponed. 

  One day later this unnamed skater had a name. 15-year-old Kamila Valieva. It was discovered that she was on three drugs, two of which were not banned, one which was. Hypoxen and L-carnitine were the substances on the list of drugs that are allowed. The drug in Valieva’s system that was banned was Trimetazidine. 

  All three of these drugs are used to improve heart function. This can help a figure skater because it gets the blood flowing which in turn gives the skater more energy and stamina. This can help senior-level skaters greatly as it improves their chances of performing a four-minute skate with no falls, trips, or step-outs.  

  Valieva’s team immediately denied that Kamila doped on purpose. Her coach Eteri Tutberidze, came up with all sorts of excuses. The most known is that Valieva accidentally drank her grandpa’s drink with the heart medicine in it. Another being that she breathed in his burp and somehow got the drugs in her system. All of these claims were laughable, and unrealistic, and had no one fooled. 

  In a post on his Instagram former Olympic figure skater for the United States, Adam Rippon called the scandal, “A sad day of Olympic sports.” 

  Although it hasn’t been confirmed, it is speculated that Valieva was given the drugs by Tutberidze not knowing what they were. Tutberidze is known for her seeming willingness to do anything to have her skaters win. Many think her abusive tactics likely include giving her skaters drugs, forcing them to starve, and taking away the right to see their parents during Olympic seasons.

  The team event was left unresolved for the rest of the Olympics but the individual event still had to go underway. The big question was if Kamila Valieva would be allowed to skate or not. In the end, she was able to skate but if she ended up on the podium medals would not be given out until her case was resolved. 

  Valieva was the favorite for gold after a season of record-breaking scores, but that isn’t what happened. Likely due to the pressure and media surrounding her Kamila performed two very uncharacteristic skates filled with step-outs and falls. The exact things that the drugs were meant to prevent. 

  In the end, the gold and silver medals went to Valieva’s teammates Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. In a surprise, bronze went to Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto who performed two clean skates. 

  Over the course of the year following the Olympics the world of figure skating drastically changed as Russia and Belarus were banned from international competitions due to the invasion of Ukraine and did not compete at the 2022 World Championships. This left international competitions to be won by new countries and the figure skating world was quickly taken over by Japanese and Korean skaters. 

  Due to  Valieva’s doping new age limits are to be put in place over the course of the next Olympic cycle. This season the ages for senior-level skaters in international competition stayed the same (15). Next season that age will increase to 16 and the year after 17. According to the International Skating Union (ISU), this was to prevent the immense pressure on the bodies of young skaters to perform extremely difficult jumps at young ages. However many current and former skaters were not happy with this decision.

  In a comment on Twitter 1998 Olympic Champion Tara Lipinski said, “Raising the age limit is a quick fix that will deny athletes a performance on the biggest stage.”

  It took almost a full year to get any kind of verdict on the case of Kamila Valieva, but finally, on January 13, 2023, the news broke and many people were upset. The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) stated that Valieva violated anti-doping rules but bore no fault or negligence for the violation according to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). 

  Valieva faced no punishments and was only stripped of one title from the whole season, her Russian National Champion title as she won the same day she tested positive for drugs (December 25, 2021). The title went to Alexandra Trusova.

  In late February another impactful moment in the case was shown to the world. It was revealed that RUSADA asked the Court of Arbitration to repeal its own decision. The reason why is unknown. 

  Despite all these developments in the case, the skaters from the team event still don’t have their medals. Together figure skaters all around the United States create the hashtag called #MoreThanMedals to show that they know what they achieved despite having medals or not. 

  Olympian Madison Chock said on Instagram that she is, “Incredibly proud to be a part of this team and proud of everything we accomplished.”

  Many skating fans believe the ROC should not receive medals. They instead think that gold should be given to the United States, silver to Japan, and bronze to Canada which placed fourth.