The Olympics come around every two years (usually) to give the best of the best athletes in the world the chance to compete against each other, with viewers from all over tuning in to watch. That said, Olympics often come with controversy, and 15-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva is at the center of controversy due to a failed drug test. She’s still being permitted to complete despite the failed test, and some former Olympians (including commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir) have shared their reactions.
Kamila Valieva tested positive for a banned substance called trimetazidine in a sample taken back on December 25, but was part of the group from the Russian Olympic Committee who won the team competition, and she made history as the first woman to successfully land a quad jump at the Olympics. The positive test came to light only after the team event, but before the individual event.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Valieva can compete in the individual, according to Yahoo! Sports, citing her status as a “protected person” who is too young to fully comprehend the substances she’s taking. The International Olympic Committee will allow her to skate, but the figure skating team event medal ceremony won’t be held, and there will be no medal ceremony in the women’s event if she places in the top three.
Tara Lipinski, who was 15 when she won the women’s single skating event for the United States in 1998, shared her thoughts on Twitter:
I strongly disagree with this decision. At the end of the day, there was a positive test and there is no question in my mind that she should not be allowed to compete. Regardless of age or timing of the test/results. I believe this will leave a permanent scar on our sport.February 14, 2022
Lipinski is not only an Olympic gold medalist in the very same event that Kamila Valieva will soon compete in, but a commentator who reaches a wide audience of Olympic viewers. Her perspective on Valieva’s age is particularly interesting, as Valieva is the same age that Lipinski was when Lipinski won her gold with a clean drug test. Johnny Weir, who competed in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Games and has since gone on to work with Lipinski as a commentator, echoed her thoughts on his own account:
I can’t condone the decision. There was a positive drug test, therefore the athlete who tested positive, at fault or not, regardless of age or timing of test/result, should not be allowed to compete against clean athletes.February 14, 2022
Johnny Weir also made the argument that the athletes whose drug tests were clean should not have to compete against somebody who failed their test, and Kamila Valieva’s age shouldn’t be a factor in that. Skater Mirai Nagasu (who recently appeared on Celebrity Big Brother) made history at the 2018 Games when she became the first American to land a triple axel in the women’s single event at the Olympics and was part of the bronze medal-winning U.S. figure skating team, and she had thoughts of her own:
The support from y’all is everything on a day like this. I can’t even relay to everyone how annoyed I am about how helpless I truly feel. We all pledge for clean sport but the event isn’t going to have a medal ceremony if one athlete gets top 3? What?February 14, 2022
Mirai Nagasu specifically noted that other skaters will lose their chance to have a medal ceremony if Kamila Valieva places in the women’s event. As somebody who holds a bronze medal for her contributions to the United States team in Pyeongchang four years ago, she certainly knows the feeling of a medal ceremony! Bradie Tennell was also part of the 2018 team event for the U.S., and didn’t hold back in her own Twitter statement:
Ashley Wagner is another Olympian-turned-commentator, and has a bronze medal for her part in the figure skating team event for the United States back in 2014. On Twitter, she revealed that her first drug test was at the age of 13, and that skaters are taught from “a very early age” that they are responsible for what goes into their bodies and making sure it’s cleared for the sport. She also posted:
At this point, I feel numb. This will leave a permanent scar on this sport. You have athletes that are competing under two different systems, and we saw that today. THAT is not fair, raise the age minimum so we can all play on the same terms. This is not the call.February 14, 2022
Only time will tell if the decision to allow Kamila Valieva to complete does indeed leave “a permanent scar” on figure skating, and it’s not even guaranteed that she’ll be in the Top 3 at the end of the women’s event, although she is expected to place at or near the top. Ashley Wagner voiced support for raising the age minimum since Valieva’s age was given as a reason for her to be allowed to compete despite the failed test. Just minutes after tweeting her initial reaction, Wagner followed with:
Actually, I’m not numb, I’m shocked, disappointed, ashamed and furious. This makes a mockery of clean competition and underlines the idea that if you’re under 18, skating clean means something different. So unfair to the clean athletes of this event, and this Olympics.February 14, 2022
Now that the decision has been made to allow Kamila Valieva to compete, the big question is of how the women’s single event will unfold. The event begins at 5 a.m. ET on February 15 with the short program in Beijing, and viewers will be able to watch it during primetime on February 15. According to NBC’s Olympics schedule (which has pushed some of the network’s biggest shows into mini hiatuses), Valieva is scheduled to take the ice for her short program at 8:52 a.m. ET. The 2022 TV schedule will get back to normal next week after the end of the 2022 Games. For some additional Olympics content, check out a Peacock Premium subscription!
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