Russian athlete’s doping scandal debases spirit of fair play at Games

The spirit of fair play, the foundation of sports, has been slighted. Relevant organizations such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) need to get to the bottom of this issue as soon as possible and deal with it appropriately.

A doping scandal has come to light at the Beijing Winter Olympics. A banned drug has reportedly been detected in a sample that was collected in late December last year from figure skater Kamila Valieva. She has been participating with the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

Because Valieva is 15 years old, the Court of Arbitration for Sport has decided to allow her to continue to compete based partly on a regulation that says an athlete under 16 is a “protected person” and is subject to different rules from an adult athlete.

The banned substance detected in the test was a heart disease medication used to increase blood flow. The possibility of accidental ingestion is low, and when an athlete tests positive for the substance, it is usual for them to be suspended for up to two years.

The fact that an athlete who tested positive for a banned drug took part in the competition as an exception has raised questions around the world.

It took more than a month for the results of her test to be made public, while it usually takes about 10 days. In addition, it is inexplicable that the announcement of the results was made during the Olympic period. It should not be tolerated if action was taken behind the scenes by concerned parties who prioritized the participation of the favorite for medals.

Valieva was part of the ROC team that took the gold medal in the figure skating team event at the Beijing Games, and she is also highly likely to get a medal in the women’s singles. If she is suspended from competing in future investigations, her record of winning medals will be erased. Meanwhile, there will be no awards ceremony for events in which she finishes third or higher.

Therefore, it is extremely regrettable that the other medalists will not be feted on the Olympic stage. This includes Japan, which finished third in the team event. It is unacceptable that many athletes who have nothing to do with doping will suffer disadvantages for the sake of protecting Valieva.

A Russian curler was stripped of his bronze medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games because of doping. This time too, due to the systematic doping and cover-ups of the past, Russian athletes have not been allowed to participate as official representatives of a nation.

Under these circumstances, it is appalling that yet another suspected doping case has emerged.

If problems continue to take place under the current system — in which athletes who are not allowed to compete as representatives of a nation may nonetheless participate in a private capacity — it could be argued that individual participation should not be allowed, either.

Russia has many strong athletes. The failure to eradicate doping culture appears to stem from the soft stance of the IOC, which wants to leave the way open for Russia to participate in Olympics to make the Games the world’s best competition.

The IOC is irresponsible if it has not taken specific measures other than leaving verification of the problem to the anti-doping organization. To protect the value of the sports extravaganza, the IOC should actively participate in investigations and provide thorough explanations of this problem.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 17, 2022.