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Drugs, Dreams, and the Olympics: Drug Crimes at the Biggest Sports Event in the World

Drugs, Dreams, and the Olympics: Drug Crimes at the Biggest Sports Event in the World

News broke early into the winter games that Russian figure skater Kamila Valileva tested positive for restricted performance-enhancing drugs. The scandal could not only permanently destroy Valieva's reputation, but it could sour the already tense atmosphere at this year's Olympic games. So, what happens when the greatest athletes in the world test positive for restricted substances? Is it a crime? Read our blog to learn more.

Kamila Valieva

Russian figure skater Kamila Valileva tested positive for doping during the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The games were already highly controversial as tensions between China and the United States grew amid political and economic issues. The news that Valileva tested positive shook the world and showed that even the brightest stars could fall flat in a moment of weakness.

Under normal circumstances, drug tests in the real world could have consequences like the loss of job opportunities or even criminal charges. For Olympians, doping might as well be the same thing. In general, "doping" refers to using performance-enhancing drugs to win a competition. Athletes have used substances like growth hormones and steroids in the past as a way to get an edge on the competition.

Olympic officials test athletes regularly and usually disqualify those who test positive. Valileva tested positive for trimetazidine, a drug often prescribed to older patients suffering from heart conditions. The reason why officials did not immediately disqualify the 15-year-old skater is that she had already competed and placed first in the individual competition. Upon the discovery of her test results, officials suspended her, and the medal ceremony was delayed.


Valileva's attorneys claim that the skater accidentally ingested her grandfather's medication and convinced the Court of Arbitration for Sport to continue competing. Valileva isn't the first athlete to use trimetazidine (TMZ), and others were punished more harshly.

In most cases, athletes who dope are disqualified from the games and are also banned from competing in any global competitions. Even if athletes need TMZ for their own health conditions, they would have to go through a strict approval process to avoid disqualification. However, because of the effects of this particular drug, it is unlikely that any competitor could get it, past officials.

Olympic Parallels

While many participants and onlookers seemed displeased by the Court of Arbitration for Sport's decision to allow Valileva to compete in the winter games, other fans of the event recalled a similar case in recent years.

Sha'Carri Richardson is a remarkable athlete known for breaking records in the 100-meter race. Her career and success at the Olympics were all but guaranteed until she tested positive for marijuana before field trials in Oregon.

For Richardson, cannabis wasn't a way to get ahead – it was a way to relax from the stress and anxiety surrounding her newfound fame and the grief of losing her biological mother. Plus, she was in a state where recreational marijuana use is legal.

Many were quick to point out that her suspension and eventual disqualification from the games was absurd – she wasn't using performance-enhancing drugs, and she took the marijuana legally. There was no reason, ethics or legality, to justify her suspension. Fans also questioned whether the treatment of Richardson's positive test was racially motivated compared to how officials have handled other cases like Michael Phelps.

Whether Richardson's suspension was racially motivated or not, there is definitely a discrepancy between the two athletes. Valileva and Richardson represent two sides of the games: prestige and fairness. Both athletes have the talent and drive to succeed but Olympic officials made different calls in their cases.


Drugs take on a different meaning in the world of sports. Most athletes avoid hard drugs that could negatively impact performance in favor of performance-enhancing substances. The consequences for a positive test can be devastating – not only do they lose their spot in the games, but they also risk tarnishing their reputation forever.

For those outside of the Olympics, drug charges not only destroy livelihoods but also result in criminal charges. If you have been accused of drug crimes, contact The Draskovich Law Group.


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