We should, at least give the Russians some credit for ingenuity; they came up with a new excuse for the positive dope test on the 15 year ice-skating phenomenon, Kamila Valieva, currently competing at the winter Olympics in Beijing. Valieva failed a dope test taken at a competition on Boxing Day (an arcane feast, celebrated only in the UK), but the positive test was only revealed six weeks later, after Valieva had helped her colleagues win a team gold in the figure-skating in Beijing. She should have been suspended immediately and the team disqualified, but further to an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and an ever eager to please (and confound) International Olympic Committee, Valieva is being allowed to skate on, while consideration is given to her status as a minor, potentially being manipulated by coaches and officials.
Then came the excuse, as back-up. She allegedly confused her medication with her grandad’s. To which we can only advise grandpa to make sure and hide his Viagra; otherwise she’ll be careening around the ice like a bobsled with brake failure. However, that excuse was countered by Wednesday’s revelation that there were two other ‘medications’ in Valieva’s sample, though they were not necessarily prohibited.
The history of excuses for positive tests is almost as old as dope-taking itself. It usually goes like this: a sport is newly introduced to dope-testing and the first culprits are almost all exonerated on such facile excuses as, ‘My team mate spiked my beer’ or, ‘My wife put it in my tea without me knowing’. Believe me, this has happened, without anyone ever asking why wife and colleague would be so asinine. US athlete Dennis Mitchell upped the ante considerably in the late-1990s when the Olympic and twice world champs bronze medal sprinter blamed five bottles of beer and four rounds in bed with his wife as the reason for his elevated testosterone level. ‘It was her birthday, she deserved a treat,’ Mitchell was alleged to have told the hearing at which he was banned for two years. We can only imagine that his wife’s pals must have sprinted to the phone themselves to say, ‘Send him round here when he gets a bit frisky’. Or, at least after the first two or three sessions!
Mitchell incidentally coaches such sprint luminaries as Justin Gatlin and Sha’Carri Richardson; the former who unbelievably came back from a four-year doping ban, and ran just as fast as when he was on the juice. Go figure, as the Yanks say! The latter was excluded from competing in Tokyo 2021 for failing a dope test for cannabis, and she has got in on the Valieva act by complaining that she was suspended (if for only a month), while Valieva is being allowed to compete in the individual event because she is white and Richardson is black. Leaving aside that Richardson is not exactly the sweetest person I’ve ever encountered in track and field that is simply a ridiculous excuse and should go down as a prime example of attention-seeking.
Joking aside, the reaction to Valieva’s temporary exoneration has been that, well, it’s a joke! First of all, she is Russian, and Russia cannot compete internationally in virtually any sport as a representative nation, due to wholesale doping misdemeanours in the past, notably the state-sponsored falsification of home athlete samples at the winter Olympics in Sochi (Russia) in 2014. The country is banned from Olympic and all world championships competition and also from the football World Cup in Qatar next (European) winter. The International Olympic Committee flunked the final step though, and has allowed Russian athletes to compete under the aegis of the Russian Olympic Committee flag. So, what’s the difference, you might ask? I suggest you talk to the President and people of Ukraine on that score!
Valieva, an inspirational skater is odds-on to win the individual gold after Thursday’s final round of competition, but it has already been announced that, like for the team competition last weekend, the medal ceremony will not take place until the whole sorry affair has been cleared up. Which may take years. I recall a medal ceremony being conducted at a Grand Prix athletics meeting in Nice in 1985, when French high hurdler, Michelle Chardonnet was presented with the Olympic bronze that she should have been given in LA the previous year, had anyone chosen to study the photo-finish properly, and seen that she had tied with Kim Turner of the USA. The scowl on Chardonnet’s face told you all you needed to know about delayed medal ceremonies in front of disinterested crowds. At least that wasn’t for a retrospective doping ban, which revelations have become as regular as Christmas parties at No 10 Downing Street. Apparently, the re-awarded medal arrives in the post nowadays, so you have to practise scowling at yourself in front of the mirror in the hall.
And the authorities wonder why fans, this one included, are becoming less and less interested in their over-hyped and suspect product!