(NEXSTAR) – U.S. star sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson slammed Olympic officials’ decision to allow Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva to compete, despite failing a pre-Games drug test. After qualifying, Richardson was barred from the Olympics after testing positive for THC following the death of her mother.
“Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mines?” Richardson, 21, tweeted. “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.”
On Monday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) cleared Valieva to skate less than 12 hours after a hastily arranged hearing that lasted into early Monday morning. A panel of judges ruled that the 15-year-old Valieva, the favorite for the women’s individual gold, does not need to be provisionally suspended ahead of a full investigation. She now has the chance to secure a second gold medal.
The court gave her a favorable decision in part because she is a minor, known in Olympic jargon as a “protected person,” and is subject to different rules from an adult athlete.
Richardson blasted the decision, saying she didn’t know of a Black athlete allowed “to compete with a case going on” and suggested the difference between their situations was “all in the skin.” Richardson, who won the 100-meter Olympic trials in June, lost her spot at the Tokyo Games after she tested positive for THC, a chemical compound found in marijuana.
Her case was handled by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, not the CAS. The champion track athlete said in later interviews that she had smoked marijuana to help blunt the pain of her mother’s recent death.
The “synthetic and naturally occurring cannabinoids” that are banned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency have been at the heart of a debate about whether or not marijuana should be considered a performance-enhancing drug.
Valieva tested positive for the heart drug trimetazidine on December 25 at the Russian nationals, but the result from a Swedish lab didn’t come to light until a week ago after she helped the Russian Olympic Committee win the team gold.
Reasons for the six-week wait for a result from Sweden are unclear. In a statement, the World Anti-Doping Agency suggested RUSADA slipped up by not signaling to the Stockholm lab that Valieva’s sample was a priority to be analyzed so close to the Olympics.
Now, Valieva and her fellow Russian skaters can aim for the first podium sweep of women’s figure skating in Olympic history. The event starts with the short program Tuesday and concludes Thursday with the free skate.
The International Olympic Committee said Monday afternoon that if Valieva finishes in the top three, there will be no medal ceremony during the Games. There will also be no ceremony for the team event won by Valieva and the Russian team a week ago. “It would not be appropriate to hold the medal ceremony,” the IOC said.
Valieva landed the first quadruple jumps by a woman at the Olympics as the Russian team won gold in a dominant performance. The decision not to award medals also affects Nathan Chen and the rest of the second-place American team, who will leave Beijing unsure if they won silver or gold. It would be Chen’s second gold of the Games. If Valieva and Russia are disqualified, Japan moves up to silver and Canada wins bronze.
“We are devastated that they will leave Beijing without their medals in hand, but we appreciate the intention of the IOC to ensure the right medals are awarded to the right individuals,” the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said in a statement.
Reaction around the world ranged from support of the young skater to complaints that Russian doping had once again damaged a sporting event. In addition to her status as a minor, the CAS ruling cited fundamental issues of fairness, the fact she tested clean in Beijing and that there were “serious issues of untimely notification” of her positive test.
Her case has caused havoc at the Olympics since last Tuesday when the team event medal ceremony was pulled from the schedule because of the positive test. The Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA) immediately suspended her, then lifted the ban a day later. The IOC and others appealed, and an expedited hearing was held Sunday night. Valieva testified via video.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.