The Olympics Handles Drug Tests with Blatant Racism

Percy Bartelt, staff writer

Two respected Olympic athletes: a 21-year-old sprinter from the United States, and a 15-year-old Russian figure skater. Both were given drug tests, which neither of them passed. The figure skater is still allowed to compete, but the sprinter is kicked off the team. Can you guess why?

The Olympic games of 2020 and 2022 already came with a multitude of problems. From racism and transphobia being swept under the rug to atrocities occurring in China that caused protests of the winter events, these Olympic games haven’t been great, to say the least. Sha’Carri Richardson is a USA Olympic sprinter that was suspended for about a month and was later disqualified from competing in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics after trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, were found in her system after a regular drug test. Once this came to light, Richardson admitted to smoking marijuana after learning of her mother’s passing, finding solace in the recreational drug.

On the other hand, Kamila Valieva, an Olympic figure skater from Russia, was suspended after a test found trace amounts of a drug called trimetazidine, commonly found in older people to treat heart issues. Valieva was only suspended and later allowed to compete in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Richardson later tweeted about this issue stating, “Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mines? 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.”

Either both athletes should have been able to compete, or neither should. There is no picking and choosing when it comes to what drugs are and aren’t allowed to be in one’s system when both THC and trimetazidine are banned substances according to the World Anti-Doping Agency. This is especially the case, considering that THC is in no way a performance enhancer when it comes to sports. Michael Phelps, a world-renowned swimmer, was caught smoking marijuana in 2008 – though his test results never reflected this. Why is Richardson any different? Why is a 15-year-old white girl using this drug allowed to continue her skating within the Olympics, but a 21-year-old Black woman is disqualified from smoking weed after her mother’s death? Blatant racism is why.

This isn’t the only case of abhorrent racism within the Olympics. In 2014, an Olympic swimmer from China, Sun Yang, tested positive for trimetazidine and was later banned from competing in 2020, according to NPR News. Yang later explained that, in 2008, he was prescribed this drug on account of serious heart issues, palpitations and dizziness, but was still banned. Even if Valieva had these same heart issues, why wasn’t she banned? Why was Yang banned for using the same drug as the 15-year-old white girl? And why was Richardson banned for coping with the death of her mother? 

I hope that future Olympic games will drastically change and be an overall exciting experience for athletes and fans alike, but right now, this racism is vile.