War on Drugs

Olympic Athletes Can Take Drugs so Long as They Also Get an Unfair Advantage

Allowing Kamila Valieva to compete evokes memories of Sha'Carri Richardson, who was suspended from competition for using marijuana.

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Amid the ongoing Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, the International Testing Agency revealed that 15-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva had tested positive for trimetazidine, a heart medication that the agency defines as a "hormone and metabolic modulator." Valieva was suspended from further competition.

The incident follows a long line of flagrant Russian doping violations. After allegations initially surfaced following the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) suspended Russia's testing laboratory's accreditation. A 2017 Academy Award-winning documentary even revealed an "elaborate Ocean's Eleven-style scheme" designed to sneak chemically-enhanced Russian athletes into the games. The country's athletes were banned from competing under their own flag in the 2018, 2020, and 2022 games.

On Monday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) lifted Valieva's suspension, pending a full investigation. Valieva can still compete, but depending upon the results of the investigation, she may ultimately have to forfeit any medals, including a gold she won last week. But the decision is being met with criticism, including from other Olympic hopefuls.

"Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mines (sic)?" tweeted sprinter and one-time Team USA aspirant Sha'Carri Richardson, 21, speculating that the only difference is that she is black, and Valieva is white. Last summer, Richardson gained fame as much for her colorful hair and personality as for her impressive qualifying time in the 100-meter, which looked likely to gain her a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Just days before her qualifying run, Richardson's mother had died. Richardson used marijuana as a means to cope with the grief, which was detected on a drug test. As a result, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) suspended Richardson for a month, rendering her ineligible to compete in Tokyo.

The distinction between Richardson's case and Valieva's is not quite apples to apples. Richardson was kept from qualifying in time trials by two U.S.-based groups based upon their classification of THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, as a "substance of abuse." Meanwhile, Valieva's suspension was lifted by CAS, an international body created by the International Olympic Committee specifically to hear sports-related disputes in arbitration. In part, CAS concluded that since Valieva is a minor, any punishment would fall more heavily on her coaches and support staff.

But Richardson does have a point: There is an inherent tension between these two events if the goal is simply to have a fair competition on a level playing field. Trimetazidine, the drug Valieva used, is intended to treat cardiac conditions by increasing blood flow to the heart and stabilizing blood pressure. Olympic competitors, including Russians, have been disqualified for using it in years past. Marijuana, on the other hand, is in no way a performance enhancer for a cardiovascular activity like sprinting and in fact, is likely detrimental. And while Valieva's original drug test sample was submitted in late December, the results were not publicly announced until last week, after she had already won a gold medal.

Unfortunately, Richardson's case is entirely predictable, as U.S. officials and private organizations continue to treat marijuana as some sort of untouchable "other" rather than a substance with near-mainstream public support for its legalization. At this year's Super Bowl, both the NFL and NBC rejected advertisements for a marijuana-focused business, even though the game was played in a state where the drug is legal and one of the halftime show performers is as well known for his music as for his marijuana consumption. Besides just being bad public policy, the War on Drugs has permeated public discourse such that it can negatively affect people's livelihoods for no good reason.

Though she is allowed to compete, Valieva may ultimately lose her medals. But even if that happens, the fact remains that she will still have gotten the opportunity to compete on an international stage, despite having used a substance explicitly forbidden for its possibility to grant a competitive edge. Richardson, on the other hand, was denied the opportunity to even qualify, much less perform. While their respective cases are not identical, one thing seems certain: Richardson deserved her spot, and she should have been allowed to compete, too.

NEXT: Gun-Maker Remington Settles with Sandy Hook Families Over Alleged Liability for Misuse of Weapon They Made

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  1. Olympic Athletes Can Take Drugs so Long as They Also Get an Unfair Advantage

    Damn. I was and am all in on the 2024 PEDs Olympics bandwagon. Too bad this title was just disingenuous clickbait to support Reason's marginal reasoning in support of cannabinoids.

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    2. Pot-ass sex-Mexicans= Reason libertarians

  2. "Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mines (sic)?" tweeted sprinter and one-time Team USA aspirant Sha'Carri Richardson, 21"

    Were you 15 years old at the time?

    They're right to treat children differently.

    If a grown man has sex with a 15 year old girl, he's guilty of statutory rape. The 15 year old girl, on the other hand, isn't guilty of any crime. Whether she consented is completely beside the point. She's 15 years old.

    It's the same thing here. Whatever Kamila Valieva did and whether she knew doesn't matter. Her coaches, doctors, nutritionists, and trainers are responsible for this. She didn't obtain the medication for herself. They gave it to her, and they're the ones who should be held responsible.

    There are two real problems here.

    1) The test results didn't become available until after she had competed.

    2) The rest of the field shouldn't have to compete against a program that broke the rules.

    The IOC should have removed her from the competition going forward--because it isn't fair to the rest of the field if one of them has an advantage that clearly violates the rules. The idea that 15 year old children should be treated just like adults is stupid. Let's pop that bubble right now.

    1. P.S. Ban the ROC from participating in the next winter Olympics.

      1. Wait, why?

        1. Are you being sarcastic?

          They're already prohibited from competing under their own flag, and this is the third or fourth Olympics that they've been caught cheating--in a row.

          Until the cost of cheating is higher than the benefit, they'll continue to cheat, and they can't benefit if they can't compete.

          P.S. If this were the United States, giving a 15 year old girl prescription strength heart medication would be investigated as child abuse. Did they ask her parents before they gave her this medication? It's bad enough when they let the program get away with cheating the rest of the field. Failing to sanction the ROC for doing this to a child is like condoning child abuse.

          1. Ok, I'm guessing you must not have meant "Republic of China" by "ROC", then...

            "Russian Olympic Committee"?

            1. Yeah, that's what I meant!

              1. It makes a lot more sense that way. "Russian Olympic Committee" isn't the first, or probably even the third referent my brain returns for "ROC", and given that the Olympics are in the PRC this year... Enh, who knows. Random brainfart. I haven't really been paying a lot of attention to the Olympics this year.

                1. The article is about a member of the Russian Olympic Committee…

                  1. You read the ARTICLES?!

                2. Who refers to China as "ROC"? Like, ever?

            2. No, Ken has put his neocon cape on again.
              RuSsIa bAd, all day every day now.
              That's what's important: not the totalitarianism happening near and to us, because Ken assures us that if we have enough faith in the system it'll all be OK.
              Who cares how many square realities need to be mashed in round abstracts.

      2. You beat me to it. The very idea of ROC competing in any Olympics is a joke. They need a two Olympic suspension, at a minimum.

        Can't trust the Soviets Russians for anything, ever. They are corrupt as the day is long.

        1. They're saying now that she had three heart medications in her system when she was tested--only one of which was banned. She's saying her grandfather took the banned one, and she must have taken the wrong medication by accident. Given the pattern of the abuse the ROC, there's no good reason to take her word for that. Tara Lapinski was on last night talking about how she was regularly tested from the age of 12, and her mother wouldn't let her take over the counter medication for a cold without clearing it with the team doctor first.

          We've recently had discussions about how different cultures mean different things by the same word (like "fairness" and "arrogance"). There are cultures that see things like "corruption" and "cheating" differently, too.

          Here in the United States, we often think of nepotism as a form of corruption, and a lot of companies will ban you from hiring anyone in your family. We don't want managers making decisions based on factors other than performance, and the chances of you firing or promoting your son, daughter, uncle, aunt, or cousin are different--than your chances of doing the same things to people who aren't related to you.

          There are other countries, where they are extremely reluctant to hire anyone who isn't related to them in some way. These tend to be places that Americans think of as corrupt. For whatever reason, however, they have evolved a culture where trust is based on family ties, and the idea that you can't hire the only people you really trust seems absurd. In the United States, if you hire someone fresh from one of these countries, they will sometimes bring their whole family to the office to introduce them to you. In their minds, you have made an alliance with their family. Hope you like getting invited to weddings, christenings, and funerals for people you don't know!

          I suspect Russia is one of these cultures where what we think of as corruption and cheating has been the standard practice since long before communist times. In NASCAR, there used to be a saying that if you weren't cheating, you weren't really trying to win, and it was just an understanding, back then, that cheating and trying to get away with it was part of the game. I think that's what the IOC is dealing with in the ROC. What the West thinks of as cheating and corruption is the accepted norm in Russia, and when they see us getting upset about cheating and corruption, they may genuinely believe that we're just making a big deal out of nothing. They won't stop until the penalties are so severe that it's better for them to stop trying to cheat.

          1. In most places, you go into power to be corrupt. It is standard operating procedure, and not an unfortunate side effect.

            Actually it happens in western democracies, too, but you have to hide it better due to a free press.

            1. “Free press. “
              Lol

    2. The age of consent in China is 14, so she can sleep with whoever she wants and they're fine. Well, the US thinks it's World Police so US citizens might want to avoid that.

    3. So they can keep doing this - as long as they do it to minors?

      1. The disqualification of her *is* punishing her trainers in the only practical way the IOC has available to them.

        They're not gonna be able to haul them into Olympic Court and try them.

    4. Agreement from the other side of the fence Ken. I might not like parents and OCs giving 15-yr.-olds PEDs to compete, but if there were a place where it should be legal, it should be here (it's not like PEDs is any worse than putting them through training that stunts their growth or putting them in the hands of a program that covers for and defends child molesters).

      Setting that aside, Reason's "It shouldn't be a crime if it's weed." is all kinds of stupid.

  3. This is an outdated way to cheat. All you need to do is grab your c-team men and have them say they identify as chicks

    1. I was waiting for someone to point out the elephant in the room.

      1. Yeah, I have heard that chemjeff is fat.

        1. Hahahahaha. God damn Ken, that was savage.

      2. Elephant in the room? Anymore in Reason, this is the room.

      3. When I read the headline, my first thought was it would be about trannies.
        But I quickly remembered this is Reason, just another evil msm rag

    2. Russia has a somewhat less progressive stance on that kind of thing than the west does.

      1. What a surprise.

      2. It's amazing how Progressive East Germany was!

      3. Until they figure out the math and then it will be OK but only for athletes.

    3. >>grab your c-team men and have them say they identify as chicks

      sounds like East Germany's playbook

    4. Remember when we used to look down our noses at the soviets because their press was just a propaganda machine?

      Remember when we used to look with disdain at the Soviet system where your business had to maintain good favor with the state, doing its bidding and punishing those who did not have favor with the state?

      Remember "that could never happen here"?

      1. Sadly, in hindsight we see that it had already happened to us back then and we didn't notice.

    5. For a more realistic method that doesn't involve years of hormone therapy, they can use the Simone Biles method. 'I have ADHD!' 'Oh ok, here's your medical exemption to take uppers.'

  4. >>"Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mines (sic)?"

    the sic is unnecessary and racist. also the skater is a minor and was probably fed the heart medication

    1. ^ US public education system product

      1. ya but 70s and 80s so I'm good.

    2. It's still a team effort.

    3. Wrong, wrong, and correct: here's your 33% sign.

  5. Is there any chance this is just Russia and China throwing recent felt slights back at the USA since the olympics is in their territory and summer runner person doesn't match up because fairness doesn't matter?

  6. > "Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mines (sic)?" tweeted sprinter and one-time Team USA aspirant Sha'Carri Richardson, 21, speculating that the only difference is that she is black, and Valieva is white.

    If Richardson wanted the answer, she could have just taken a moment to look up the CAS' reasoning. By rule, <16 are treated differently.

    1. She doesn't want the answer. She wants to say it's because she's black.

    2. It’s because she tested positive for the evil demon weed.

  7. Meanwhile we are also fawning over a snowboarder who brands herself as “biracial” for Instagram while competing for China.

    It’s because she’s hot, isn’t it?

    The real message is that Russia needs to focus its doping on minors because they won’t get punished.

  8. "Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mines (sic)?" tweeted sprinter and one-time Team USA aspirant Sha'Carri Richardson, 21, speculating that the only difference is that she is black, and Valieva is white.

    No, the difference is that the Russians are willing to pay whatever the IOC asks for, whether to host the games or to absolve themselves of doping (at least to a point).

    But if Richardson wants to live a delusional life where anything that she doesn't like is caused by racism, then what-the-fuck-ever.

  9. Does anyone wonder why the ratings suck?

  10. Whatever reason she took illegal drugs is irrelevant.

    It’s on her and her trainers. Not her competitors.

  11. Richardson's problem was not the color of her skin it was her nation of origin. If she was Russian she would have been fine,

    1. And 15 years old.

      That really does make a difference.

      1. It does in culpability. But not for the purposes of who gets to compete.

        The point of doping rules is a level playing field. "I didn't want to cheat, my coaches decided that for me" does not really change the level playing field dynamic.

        Plus, her story is obvious bullshit, if these details are correct:

        She says it was contamination from grandpa's heart medicine.

        But she lists two other heart medications that are not banned on her disclosure forms.

        So...

        Either those medications were part of some doping scheme either as a mask or as a cocktail... Or we have some really bizarre coincidences here.

        She tested positive for 3 heart medicines, one is banned. She claims the 2 that are not banned were real, and the banned one is because grandpa.

        Nope. Now you are lying.

    2. I'm fine with black Russians. That's a pleasant cocktail.

  12. Where's the tablet that commands us that we have to care about the Olympics®? My life has been much more fulfilling since I gave up viewing the faux sports O games, circa 1990's. I'd prefer a youth league softball game to the pretence-a-lympics.

  13. Did Reggie Bush win the Heisman?

    Does anyone ever say he didn't?

    No, they don't. He was stripped of his Heisman because he was paid handsomely to play for USC. They cheated.

    The Olympic situation is no different. Russia as a nation was caught cheating in an organized way. Repeatedly.

    The penalty? You can't say "Russia". You have to say "Russian Olympic Committee". And you have to use the Olympic flag instead of the Russian flag.

    That is it. You still get to compete, despite having a national committee that helps cheating which robs other competitors of a fair playing field. You still win the games you win.

    And if you get caught cheating again? With the help of the national committee again (she tested positive for banned drugs Dec 25 in Russia at the Russian lab. Not announced until after the games)?

    You get to compete. But we might not let you keep the medal.

    Does anyone remember the person who didn't win but got names the winner months later?

    No.

    They should be ashamed. Either let her compete, knowing they are cheating, or ban her. Pretending that "we will strip the medal later" is anything real is a joke.

  14. The entire fucking system is a joke when you can get a medical exemption for "ADHD" and take amphetamines or methylphenidate (which works like cocaine; a dopamine reuptake inhibitor) during the competition.

    Trimetazidine months ago is nothing compared to actively being on uppers.

    1. Doesn’t matter. Lots of sports have dumb rules, but there are strict rules.

  15. Richardson's problem isn't that she's black; its that she isn't Russian. Smart money says the Russians pushed back hard on the Court and they lost whatever spines they had and let the girl compete anyway.

    1. Possibly some well placed bribes were involved.

  16. I don't even mind if the athletes take performance enhancing drugs. I just want an even playing field. Issue the drugs out, have the athletes line up for the shots. Hand out fistfuls of uppers before the races. Hell, get the genetic labs working on this stuff so we can have freaks of nature running, jumping, etc.

    I want 8 foot tall guys playing basketball. I want to see a sprinter run a 7 second 100 meter dash. A weightlifter pushing 1000 lbs over his head? Yes, please. Lets go for it.

    1. Exoskeleton weightlifting, bah, let's just go to giant cranes

      1. Exoskeletons? Fuck no. Dudes 4 feet tall and 6 feet wide lifting 1000 lbs over their heads. Lets get this done.

        1. Let's meet in the middle: 5'3" tall with adamantium skeletons. We can have a competition against 6'11" Russians with carbonadium appendages. It'll be an uncanny story to rea... I mean competition to watch.

    2. The trouble with that is that most performance-enhancing drugs are harmful in the long run. We could allow _adult_ professional football, basketball, and baseball players to bulk up with steroids and enhance their running with heart medication, at a likely cost of heart attacks at 40, but we don't. We certainly don't want 15 year old kids making that choice. But if we allow this girl to enhance her performance in the Olympics with drugs, how do you convince a high school wrestling team not to use the drugs?

      1. The trouble with that is that most performance-enhancing drugs are harmful in the long run.

        Yeah, because being big enough you develop sleep apnea and lifting weights so heavy your nose bleeds would otherwise be a solid recipe for longevity. I'm sure Favre got addicted to pain meds because he was just bored in the off season.

        how do you convince a high school wrestling team not to use the drugs?

        I hate to break it to you but you aren't convincing them now. You're just arresting them if they get caught. There are several big caveats as well, HS is more about team sports whereas the Olympics, despite widespread rumors of nationalism, still contains a very distinct element of individual competition. Additionally, a high schooler can be 6' 2" 210 lbs. naturally and tends to compete against 5'6" 175 lb. 'peers'. Lastly, HS athletes aren't the specialized elite. Not as much motivation to bulk up when you already outweigh everyone on the field by 20 lbs. and you have to cut weight come wrestling season.

        Does all of that mean that HS football players don't take steriods to bulk up and then switch to diuretics come wrestling or track season? Absolutely not.

  17. If the point of banning PEDs is to prevent adverse effects down the road, then lifting Valieva's suspension because she is a minor is a perverse incentive. At least an adult has informed consent about what they are ingesting. A minor does not.

    There are interesting rings to discuss, bur we do not explore them because this is a Reason staffer whining that pot is not considered a socially acceptable recreational drug by much of the wider culture.

  18. Richardson deserved her spot, and she should have been allowed to compete, too.

    So you think that the judiciary should have the authority to second-guess the wisdom of the legislature in making certain substances out of bounds? Every athlete caught with a prohibited substance in his or her body has the right to a de novo inquiry into whether that substance should have been banned in the first place? Or is this just for substances that “really” should not have been banned in the first place?

  19. In fact, I don't believe that she really did dope. I watched her last performance, so I can draw such conclusions. I always follow sporting events as it is my job. I bet on sports. I look at a lot on the site https://takebet.com.gh/ that my colleagues advised me. Usually I have enough quality forecasts on this site, but I also always try to understand the sport on my own.

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