‘The only difference I see is I’m a black young lady’: Is Sha’Carri right about Olympic Russian skater case?

Sha’Carri Richardson Twitter

Fact Box

  • Sha’Carri Richardson is known for winning the 100-meter dash in 10.86 seconds and qualified as a potential gold-metal runner up in the 2021 Olympics. 
  • Kamila Valieva is a 15-year-old Russian figure skater known as the 2022 Winter Olympic champion and the 2022 European champion, while holding nine total world records during her career.
  • In response to the official decision regarding Valieva’s case, Richardson tweeted, “Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mines? [...] The only difference I see is I’m a black young lady.”
  • After leading Russia to a figure skating win, it was revealed that Valieva had tested positive for trimetazidine, a banned heart medication, after “accidentally” taking her grandfather’s medication. She was initially suspended by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) on February 8, 2022, but reinstated by the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) after multiple organizations’ pushback. 
  • On Friday, July 2, 2021, Richardson accepted a one-month suspension that disqualified her from the Olympics and she “forfeit any medals, points, and prizes.” She was put on suspension following a positive test for THC after her biological mother’s death. 
  • According to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), THC and trimetazidine are on the list of prohibited substances. Its rules are upheld in the Olympics as well.

Andrew (Yes)

Though IOC spokesperson, Mark Adams, has suggested that 'every single case is very different,' the recent double standard in regards to doping allegations, which allowed figure skater, Kamila Valieva, to compete despite testing positive for a banned substance while in the previous summer games sprinter, Sha'Carri Richardson, was banned from competition has shown that there is very little difference between the two athlete situations. In response to these allegations of bias from Richardson, Adams gave only a single reason for the discrepancy; that Richardson's test was performed well in advance of the games, and Valieva's was closer to competition. If the IOC is serious about its anti-doping policy, then the timeframe shouldn't matter. Banned substances are not allowed, and those found in violation should be barred from competition.

While the IOC's reasoning is shaky enough, the remainder of Adam's statement highlights the difference in how the young ladies were treated. Valieva is considered a 'protected person' due to her age and the perception that banning her might irreparably damage her skating career. While it is true Richardson was several years older at the time of her violation, being banned from the world's biggest racing stage certainly would have the same effect on her own career. A strategy that truly aims to protect young athletes would get serious about finding those responsible for her taking the banned substance and punishing them. Further, in regards to Valieva, Adams said, 'It must be very tough for her,' which it no doubt is. However, there was no sympathy expressed in Richardson's case, despite her opening up about her use of a non-performance enhancing drug to cope with the loss of her mother.

Bertie (No)

Sha'Carri Richardson should not have been banned from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games for smoking pot. That she was, however, doesn't immediately prove her claim of 'racism' in the fact that Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva wasn't barred from competing in Beijing 2022. Richardson is understandably angry at the seeming double standard, but she's jumping the gun in her knee-jerk reaction to say the discrepancy is based on skin color alone.

The fact that Valieva is a minor weighs into the argument; she may or may not have been given accurate information on what was being administered to her. For Richardson's part, she admitted to having smoked pot, owing to the recent death of her mother, and accepted the suspension relatively gracefully given that it excluded her from Olympic participation. 

Also significant, these are two independent countries with two separate drug monitoring agencies working within two different standards of reasoning in operation here: the US and Russia. Though the USADA is by no means lily-white in its reputation, Russia's is famous for flouting international anti-doping rules. Then there's the notoriously corruptible IOCmaybe particularly when it pertains to Russia. Due to the lack of preemptive decisions made against it by the IOC, WADA, or the CAS, Russia evidently feels it can act with impunity when doping its athletes. 

If there's 'racism' present in the comparison of the Richardson and Valeiva cases, it seems more likely that it's an American vs. Russian 'nationalism' than anything having to do with either athlete's skin tone.

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