Kamila Valieva-Sha’Carri Richardson situation is not about ‘the rules’

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Kamila Valieva is skating in the Olympics while Sha’Carri Richardson couldn’t run in the Summer Games.

Kamila Valieva is skating in the Olympics while Sha’Carri Richardson couldn’t run in the Summer Games.
Illustration: Getty Images

Unsurprisingly, Emmanuel Acho doesn’t have anything to say.

Similar to the people that yelled and moaned that Sha’Carri Richardson should have “followed the rules” when the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) suspended her for a month and caused her to miss the Summer Olympics for testing positive for marijuana, Acho — and that crowd — have been mostly silent when it comes to Kamila Valieva.

On Tuesday, the 15-year old white Russian — the figure skater, not the alcoholic drink — won the women’s short program at the Olympics despite stumbling early in her routine. She’s the favorite, and it’s assumed that she will likely win gold or at least a medal. But, when, or if, that happens, there won’t be a ceremony as the IOC is trying to save face after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is allowing Valieva to compete after she tested positive for trimetazidine, a banned substance.

Why is she being allowed to compete despite breaking the rules?

Racism, even if people are denying it.

“Legalizing weed in track and field competition is all good if you’re running a straight line. Legalizing weed in track and field is terribly dangerous if you throw the javelin. Where do we draw the line?” Acho wrote in a now-deleted tweet in July. He then got on TV and talked about how the rules that got Richardson bounced from running in the Olympics were “stupid,” but then said, “You’ve still got to adhere to the stupid rules. … Let’s please not make this racial.”

The CAS considers Valieva a “protected person” since she is under the age of 16, which means they think she should be allowed to play by different rules than the adults, all while still being allowed to compete and be judged just like the adults. Valieva’s camp claims that she failed the test due to her grandfather’s medicine, but the New York Times is reporting that Valieva’s rapid rise in the sport was taking place before she failed her test.

How convenient.

“The panel considered that preventing the athlete to compete at the Olympic Games would cause her irreparable harm in the circumstances,” said CAS Director General Matthieu Reeb about the decision to allow the young and picturesque star from Putin’s country to compete.

For those keeping score at home:

The “loud” and “cocky” American girl with bright hair and tattoos, who is unapologetically Black and who was a potential Olympic favorite, was kept out of the games for smoking weed — a downer — after she found out her mother died.

The “young” and “pure” Russian girl who looks like a Disney character is being allowed to compete, and win, during the Games after she failed a drug test for a banned substance that “is illegal for athletes to use both in and out of competition as it can increase blood flow efficiency and improve endurance.”

“Can we get a solid answer on the difference of (Valieva’s) situation and mines?” Richardson wrote Monday on Twitter. “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,” Richardson tweeted. “Btw THC definitely is not a performance enhance!!!!,” she added.

However, the most important thing Richardson mentioned on Twitter was about how Valieva tested positive back in December, but how it’s just now coming to light. That wasn’t the case for Richardson, as we immediately knew what her situation was, allowing people to opine on it for weeks as we approached the Summer Games.

This situation is the perfect case study of how women are viewed and treated in sports, and life, depending on their race. And despite how notorious the jokes about Russians playing dirty at the Olympics may be, let’s not act like the stark difference between who Sha’Carri Richardson is and who many want Kamila Valieva to be, aren’t at play here. If this were about “the rules,” then this story would just be about two girls who both served punishment for breaking them. But it’s not about “the rules.” This is about how what you look like determines whether the rules apply to you.

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