Olympics' Double Standard: Sha'Carri Richardson and Kamila Valieva
Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/ Getty Images; Matthew Stockman/ Getty Images
On June 19, 2021, U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson tested positive for marijuana (THC) use prior to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Richardson was forced to miss the Games and faced a 30-day suspension due to the positive drug test. Yet, in a similar case, Russian skater Kamila Valieva tested positive for trimetazidine, a drug that is banned by global antidoping officials, but has faced no repercussions.
This is not the first case of a black athlete experiencing more scrutiny from the public than someone who identifies with another race. There are countless examples from previous Games where black athletes have been criticized for their appearances and actions that their white counterparts could get away with. The rules of the Games are only enforced upon the black athletes that don't fit the narrative of what a professional athlete is expected to look and act like.
"My name & talent was slaughtered to the people" Sha'Carri Richardson
On top of trimetazidine, Valieva’s sample also provided evidence of two other heart medications, hypoxen and L-carnitine, both of which she listed on a doping control form. A 15-year-old girl who is on three heart medications is highly unusual, according to antidoping officials. Further, a member of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) executive board claimed that Valieva’s positive result could have been due to “contamination” from her grandfather’s medication, which isn’t such a convincing argument to many.
According to Jenna Lemoncelli, a journalist for the New York Post, Valieva’s positive drug sample was taken in December, however the results were not presented to officials until after she won gold for the Russian Olympic Committee in the team competition.
Photo Credit: @itskerrii on Twitter
Richardson has publicly claimed that there is a double standard between the two cases, as many would agree. On the one hand, Richardson tested positive for marijuana (THC) in her sample, which she was using to cope with her biological mother’s death and does not increase athletic performance levels. While on the other hand, Valieva tested positive for trimetazidine, which is known to “improve blood flow and enhance function of the heart when it lacks oxygen.”
“Black athletes seem to have to always be perfect and mistake-free in every aspect of their lives, or else they receive media scrutiny.”
Mark Adams, an IOC spokesperson, claims: “You can’t talk about double standards in relation to Russian and American athletes, each case is individual.” Adams’ claim ignores the fact of how Richardson’s and Valieva’s positive test results were revealed to the public and at what cost. Valieva, just as Richardson, failed a drug test that was taken pre-Olympics. The difference between the two cases is the fact that Richardson’s test results were reviewed by officials before the start of the Games, then almost immediately became public knowledge.
“When systemic racism is ignored and perpetuated, Black women athletes like Sha’Carri Richardson get suspended, disqualified, are used to perpetuate anti-Black racism and are enforced in a manner that keeps Black women on the sidelines.”
So, why is it that Richardson’s drug test was evaluated before The Games, but Valieva’s failed test result was discovered only after she had won gold for her team? To argue that there is nothing in common between the failed drug tests of Richardson and Valieva is an ignorant response to a question that the IOC doesn’t want to answer. Black athletes are constantly under a microscope, waiting for the media and the public to scrutinize them for things that the majority can sweep under the rug without fear of backlash.