U.S. track and field star Sha’Carri Richardson suggested racism was to blame for the recent decision to allow a Russian ice skater to compete at the Winter Olympics in Beijing despite testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance.
Richardson was forced out of competition at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo last year after testing positive for THC. She was widely expected to dominate at the games. Russian skater Kamila Valieva, the frontrunner for the gold medal in figure skating, tested positive for the drug trimetazidine recently but has been allowed to compete in this year's Winter Games.
“Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mines?” Richardson asked in a recent post to social media. “My mother died and I can’t run and was also favored to place top 3. The only difference I see is I’m a black young lady.”
In response to the ruling, the International Olympic Committee announced there will be no awards ceremony if Valieva wins a medal.
Richardson had famously thanked her girlfriend last June after she qualified for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo after winning the 100-meter women’s sprint event at the Olympic track and field trials in Oregon.
“My girlfriend actually picked my color,” Richardson said at the time. "She said it like spoke to her, the fact that it was just so loud and vibrant, and that’s who I am.”
Little more than a week later, Richardson accepted a one-month suspension after she tested positive for THC. The suspension effectively eliminated the rising out track and field star from competing at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Trimetazidine, the banned substance used by Valieva, is used outside the U.S. to treat heart patients suffering from angina. It is banned as performance-enhancing because it increases heart blood flow to the heart and can be used to increase stamina.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport, which has authority in these matters, claimed they were not weighing the merits of the evidence and the final disposition of the case, but merely whether a suspension was warranted. They claimed she would suffer unfair damage to her career if she was suspended now but proven innocent of the charges later.
IOC member Denis Oswald said at a press conference that lawyers for Valieva blamed her grandfather’s heart medication for the failed drug test.
“Her argument was contamination which happened with a product her grandfather was taking,” Oswald was quoted by Yahoo! News.
The United States Olympics & Paralympics Committee called the decision “disappointing” and said it was “the collective responsibility of the entire Olympic community to protect the integrity of sport” and ensure a “level playing field” for athletes to compete. CEO Sarah Hirshland also pulled no punches at laying blame.
“This appears to be another chapter in the systemic and pervasive disregard for clean sport by Russia,” she said in a statement.
In their ruling, the Court also blamed the notification delay for the failed test for their decision. They also found that since Valieva is a minor, she is “protected person” entitled to special protections. They were clear to stress they are not the ultimate arbiters on the case itself, and that any medals awarded can be taken away if Valieva is later disqualified.