15-year-old figure skater, Kamila Valieva, tests positive for drugs during the Olympics

The Olympics are never without controversy, and this year’s Olympic season, figure skating has taken center stage. Kamila Valieva, a 15-year-old rising figure skating star, tested positive on a drug test on Dec. 25 and competed under the Russian Olympic Committee. She was cleared to skate just one day before the start of the women’s short program.

Russia has been banned from competing in the Olympics, but they have devised a method for their athletes to compete under a neutral flag and in the name of the Russian Olympic Committee. Valieva is one of 214 athletes competing in the ROC. 

Valieva has made headlines not only for her extraordinary abilities on the ice but for testing positive for trimetazidine, also known as TMZ, a heart drug with stimulant properties that is typically used to treat angina. Angina is a condition where reduced blood flow to the heart causes chest pain. The heart drug is believed to enhance athletes’ stamina and blood utilization efficiency.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that she is still eligible to compete in the women’s short program despite testing positive for a prohibited substance because she is a “protected person” as a minor. According to the International Olympic Committee, there will be no medal ceremony if Valieva finishes in the top three. There will also be no ceremony to commemorate Valieva and the Russian team’s victory in the team event.

While the ROC holds the medal count with 32 medals, Valieva elevated the status of the figure skating medals by outscoring the field by nearly 16 points in the short program the day before, earning a 90.18. Valieva then became the first woman to land a quadruple jump in Olympic competition in the free skate.

Valieva finished off podium on her Ladies’ single program, uncharacteristically falling several times on quad jumps and stepping out of jumps too soon, earning fourth place. Her teammates made the podium, winning first and second place. Recent reports show that in addition to TMZ, L-carnitine and hypoxen were also found in her system but were permitted by the committee but known to improve endurance. The Committee has not commented on whether these substances will be taken off the approved list of drugs. 

She should have faced harsher punishment; receiving a gold medal without a ceremony does not count considering that others in the sport worked as hard as she did, but their efforts were overshadowed by her scandal and negligence in the case. Regardless of the controversy surrounding Valieva, she is just a child who the adults and coaches let down in her life. 

The doping scandal also raises the question of whether the ROC’s medals will be revoked and how the Olympics will handle doping cases in the future. During the summer, the Olympic Committee made headlines when banning Sha’Carri Richardson, a black runner, from competing in the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for the use of marijuana. Richardson and others have begun to protest the Olympic Committee’s decision to maintain such a double standard, and many are questioning whether it is a matter of race. 

Whether the Olympic Committee decides to disqualify Valieva after the most recent report or to strip her and the ROC of their medals, the choice will affect the sport of figure skating for years to come.