After Valieva39s suspension US gets its medals but not its.jpgw1440

After Valieva's suspension, US gets its medals, but not its joy – The Washington Post

Whether the Court of Arbitration for Sport's decision on Monday to support the suspension of Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva is justified is unclear at best. What the decision is undoubtedly missing is joy.

There are none for the American team members who are now being awarded gold medals. There is none for Valieva, who is still a teenager and whose future in competition is in doubt. There is none for the Russians, whose state-sponsored doping system for their Olympic athletes was exposed a decade ago and whose presence at every Games since has been marked by suspicion.

Sport is based on so many basic elements – hard work, discipline, endurance, athleticism, competition. But they are nothing without the fundamental pursuit of joy and fun. This can lie in the work that goes into preparation anonymously. It is certainly expressed in the celebration of victory.

The Olympic Games, on the other hand, are about the moments in which this joy breaks out. What do we have here, in the remnants of a competition that ended almost two years ago? The moment doesn't just end. The moment is lost forever.

Firstly, this applies to Valieva, who is child's play in everything. Whatever happened at the 2021 Russian Championships, when Valieva took a test for a substance called trimetazidine, was almost certainly not the figure skater's fault. She was 15.

The drug is most often used to relieve chest pain caused by coronary artery disease. It is listed by the World Anti-Doping Agency in the “hormone and metabolic modulators” category. Whatever happened, Valieva almost certainly wasn't looking for trimetazidine to help her implement her short program.

“Doping of children is unforgivable,” WADA said in a statement on Monday. “Doctors, trainers or other support staff found to have administered performance-enhancing substances to minors should face the full force of the World Anti-Doping Code.”

But on Monday only 17-year-old Valieva was punished.

Then the moment comes too late for the International Olympic Committee. There was a way for the IOC to ensure there would be no Valieva case long before the 2022 Games. That would have meant not only excluding “Russia” from the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, 2020 in Tokyo and 2022 in Beijing. The IOC took these steps and there was no Russian flag, no Russian anthem, no Russian colors.

But that was a half-measure and a damaging one. The vocal opposition to Russia's orchestrated fraud – first exposed by German media in 2014 and further exposed by whistleblower doctor Grigory Rodchenkov in 2016 – would have been to ban Russian athletes from the Olympics. The IOC hesitated, certainly not least to avoid angering a nation that could well make a lucrative bid for future Games. So here we are.

There is precedent for suspending both a country's leadership and its athletes. At the beginning of the 20th century, South Africa was the first African country to send athletes to the Olympic Games. But before the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo, the IOC expelled the country because of its blatantly racist segregation policies. The IOC makes a habit of saying it cannot and will not get involved in politics and consistently ignores human rights abuses when they are committed by countries willing to host the Games. However, there is precedent that suggests it can take more forceful action. All it takes is the will.

Oh, and as for the Americans. Remember the embarrassment of the Valieva case in Beijing, where history all but hijacked the Games. News of her positive test only became known when she became the star of the Russian group that won the team competition. The American team – Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou, Karen Chen, Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier, Madison Hubbell, Zachary Donohue, Madison Chock and Evan Bates – assumed they had won silver. Then the IOC postponed the awards ceremony.

The entire operation has been suspended since then. The Americans didn't have time. You'll never have a moment.

“Today is a day we have been eagerly awaiting for two years because it is a significant victory not only for Team USA athletes, but also for athletes worldwide who practice fair play and promote clean sports,” said Sarah Hirshland , CEO of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said in a statement on Monday. “…We now look forward to the day when we can wholeheartedly celebrate these athletes, along with their colleagues from around the world. The moment is drawing near and when it comes, it will serve as evidence of the justice and recognition they truly deserve.”

Something tells me that the athletes in question will not feel a spontaneous sense of jubilation – no unbridled joy – when a ceremony is arranged to award their medals.

The TAS decision in the Valieva case is not a redress of a wrong. It is further punishment of a person who likely had no part in her death, while allowing her carers – and her country – to carry on without consequences. The American team receives gold medals to place on their mantel. Perhaps this conclusion is justified. But almost two years after the competition, the joy of the pursuit was certainly no longer there.