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Runner Sha’Carri Richardson suggests double standard in decision to allow Kamila Valieva to compete

Sha'Carri Richardson reacts after winning the women's 100-meter race in the track and field Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore.Chang W. Lee/NYT

Runner Sha’Carri Richardson is questioning whether there is a double standard at play after an international court allowed Russian skater Kamila Valieva to continue competing at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics despite having tested positive for a banned substance.

Richardson, a 21-year-old sprinter who was barred from competing in the women’s 100 meters at the Toyko Games last summer because of a positive marijuana test, suggested there was a racial disparity between how she was treated and how officials are handling the 15-year-old Russian skater’s case.

“Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mines? 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 Monday.


Richardson, an emerging star in women’s track and field, said she used marijuana to cope with the stress of learning her mother had died. Her positive test invalidated her victory at the women’s 100-meter event at the US Olympic trials, and she was also left off the women’s relay team.

The ban sparked a debate over the use of marijuana in athletics, with many calling for US officials to revisit rules that disqualify athletes who use the drug. Advocates for reforming the rules pointed to systemic racism in the United States criminal justice system for those found to be using marijuana, with people of color much more likely to face severe consequences for marijuana use than white people. Marijuana is legal in Oregon, where the Olympic trials were held.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport, an independent body created to resolve disputes in athletics, on Monday upheld the decision by the Russian anti-doping agency to lift its ban on Valieva, which allows her to compete in the women’s individual figure skating event. Should she win, Valieva won’t be awarded a medal while an investigation is underway.


The court gave her a favorable decision in part because she was a minor or “protected person” and was subject to different rules from an adult athlete. Former figure skaters have called for harsher punishment for Russian Olympics coaches and officials and offered messages of support for Valieva because of her age. This current doping scandal is just the latest for Russia, whose athletes are competing under the name “Russian Olympic Committee” because the country has been banned from the Olympics for previous doping scandals.

The case went before the Court of Arbitration for Sport after the International Olympic Committee and others objected to the decision by the Russian anti-doping agency allowing Valieva to compete.

Valieva tested positive for the heart drug trimetazidine on Dec. 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. The fate of that medal remains in limbo.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.