Feb 17, 2022; Beijing, China; Kamila Valieva (ROC) reacts in the kiss and cry in the women s figure skating free program during the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games at Capital Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The story around Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva has been bizarre. Fittingly, her 2022 Winter Olympics came to an end in an unexpected way.

After her positive test for a banned substance, there was controversy about whether Valieva should have been allowed to compete in Beijing. It was later announced that, if she finished in medal position, no ceremony would be held. Given that she was the clear favorite heading into the women’s event, that seemed like a given.

But after falling multiple times in her long program, that did not happen. Two Russian skaters were on the podium but Valieva finished in fourth place, just missing a medal.

The reactions were varied.

Some people felt it was fitting, whatever the figure skating equivalent of “ball don’t lie” is.


Valieva received a lot of sympathy as well. Not so much for missing out on the medals but for being a 15-year-old going through a storm of negative publicity.

And at the end of it all, it’s hard to argue with that logic. If you’ve followed either the Beijing Winter Olympics or the 2020/2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics, you’re familiar with the Russian Olympic Committee — or R.O.C. — designation. Russia, as a country, has been barred from competing. Russian athletes still compete, just under the R.O.C. banner, as opposed to the Russian flag. If you think that sounds like nothing more than a distinction without a difference, you’re not alone.

The reality is, though, that distinction means that something is going on in that country with its athletes. Furthermore, the International Olympic Committee knows it’s going on. As frustrating as that is, it is hard to blame the athletes — particularly the younger ones — for being caught in this mess.



Even if Valieva knew what she was taking, can we really believe that it was her idea and not that of the adults around her? And even if it was, it’s their job to be the adults and tell her no.

None of that happened. The I.O.C. brought this on themselves by acknowledging the issue with the Russian Federation while also creating such an obvious loophole. That does nothing to dissuade any of the cheating. Valieva’s situation exposed that.

If the I.O.C. wants this issue fixed, Russian athletes must be barred from an Olympics with no loopholes. That’s heartbreaking, especially for the innocent ones. And while it won’t fix the issue of doping in sports, it will go a long way in preventing a situation like this from ever happening again.

We can’t feel bad that Valieva didn’t win, or even medal. But we also can’t help but feel bad that a 15-year-old has been the cover girl for a scandal that was likely not her doing and, even if it was, remains a lot bigger than her. If the I.O.C. doesn’t take more drastic action, Valieva’s story will sadly not be the last of its kind.

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