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Protected Peoples, Cheaters Prosper, and "Too Fat to Compete"...

This is figure skating... I turned off the Super Bowl to watch Ice Dancing, that's who I am. I'm not sorry about it, but because people know I turned off the Super Bowl to watch ice dancing I've had a lot of questions directed towards me about how I feel about Kamila Valieva. If you haven't been paying attention, we're going to give a quick rundown. In December a specimen was collected from Ms. Valieva by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency at the Russian Figure Skating Championships. All the way into the future on 8 FEB, this specimen was finally reported on as having tested positive. RUSADA (Russian Anti...blah blah) issued a provisional suspension of an unnamed athlete on 8 FEB, which would have disqualified that athlete from participating in the 2022 Olympics. On 9 FEB, RUSADA overturned that suspension, still of an unnamed athlete (publicly, over course RUSADA knew who they had suspended, which brings us to the next paragraph).

Alina Zagatova, 2018 Gold Medalist

Under the World Anti-Doping Code, athletes under the age of 16 are what is known as a 'Protected Person', meaning that if they test positive for a controlled substance, their name is not released for the safety and protection of the child, and let's be clear, she is a child. I believe in protecting children from abusive adults in their lives, and really, that's what this entire thing is about for me. Because we haven't protected children, adults, in this case Eteri Tutberidze, have been allowed to abuse successive groups of children over and over. Let's be clear, Eteri is probably the most-decorated coach in figure skating history; in 2018 it was her skaters that finished Gold and Silver; Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva. Where are they now? Alina was 15 years old when she won Olympic Gold in 2018, and in 2019 she was the World Champion. By 2020, she was done. Alina has never complained of injuries, but did say (through a translator, so something may be lost here) that her diet was powdered protein and that water was used as a 'rinse', it was swished around the mouth and spit out, never swallowed. After she experienced puberty following the Olympics it became too difficult to complete things like the triple lutz-triple loop combo that helped take her to Olympic Gold. She once said 'I'm too fat to compete now...' Scroll up, take a look at a young woman who described herself as too fat...

Evegenia Medvedeva's story might bother even more though. In 2015 she won Gold at World Junior's, and in 2016 she won Gold at World's, having become age-eligible to compete in the Senior division. In 2017 she won Gold again, becoming the first woman to win Gold in Juniors and Seniors in consecutive years, and then the first woman since Kristi Yamaguchi to defend a World title. In 2018 she finished second to Ms. Zagatova at the Olympics, where they posted identical scores of 156.65 in the free skate, but Zagatova had the better short program score. Ms. Medvedeva fought injuries during the 2017/2018 season, including a cracked metatarsal in her right foot (no really, you try jumping and landing on ice skates with that injury), and after the Olympics switched coaches and moved to Canada to train. She said at the time (paraphrasing) 'I want to work with a coach that will listen to me,' At the 2019 World Championships she suffered a thigh injury, and won Bronze. In September of 2020 it was revealed she had sustained a chronic back injury and would take time to recuperate, and that she would go back to training in Moscow. She'd become stuck in Japan during the early days of COVID, and travel restrictions meant she could get back to Moscow or to Canada, but her mother could not get from Japan to Canada because of differences in visa types. Today, at 22, she is retired from the sport because of a chronic back injury. These aren't the first two, and you can keep going backwards

Adelina Sotnikova was 18 when she won Gold in 2014. She last participated in an event in 2016, and suffered (at least known) severe back pain concentrated in her spine and torn ankle ligaments. Maria Sotskova was didn't medal at the 2018 Olympics, but did pick up a 10 year ban for forging a medical certificate to explain why she was doping. Which brings us to Cheaters Prosper...

Doping isn't a new problem in Russia. The post-Soviet state of Russia leads all nations in having been stripped of 46 Olympic medals, four times the number stripped from the next highest nation of cheaters. The 2014 Sochi games are tainted by a state-run doping program, which the head of the lab admitted to. Russian athletes were stripped of twenty-one medals and 46 athletes were sanctioned, either after a positive test result, or for doctoring results. In 2018, with Russia banned from participating, the Olympic Athletes of Russia still managed to get a medal stripped and have two athletes test positive during the games. So 2022 is just same song, new verse, and will be until there is actual punishment for these cheaters, and massive rules changes to protect these children. In most cases the cheaters involved in these doping scandals are adults. The members of the Russian Women's Ice Hockey who doped up (and then switched test results to hide it, but didn't do their research) were mostly over the age of 25, and some were near 40. They made choices, and were punished. If we punish Kamila Valieva and don't punish her coaches, and the Russian Federation, we have failed a 15 year old skater and the future. Yet, if we don't punish her, then we know that cheaters can win Olympic Gold as long as we dope them up young enough. Ms. Valieva has been pushed to her breaking point, with 12 hour training days, obscene diet regimens, and (in my opinion) being doped up without her knowledge. In her eyes, because she's 15 and she's been told this, she only gets one shot at the Olympics. By the time she's 19 she'll be 'too old' or 'too fat' to be successful because she won't be able to jump as high or rotate four times, so she thinks she gets once chance. Which is where I believe a rules change needs to take place. The Olympics are a senior-level skating competition, which is only open to skaters over the age of 15. On the men's side, Pyeongchang saw medals awarded to 28 year old Adam Rippon, 27 year old Patrick Chang (both in team competition) and 23 year old Yuzuru Hanyu (individual Gold). On the woman's side the OLDEST medal winner in singles was Kaetlyn Osmond, who won Bronze at the age of 22...(the aforementioned 15 and 18 year olds won Gold and Silver). The first step to making figure skating healthier for the competitors is to give them proper developmental time, physical and mental. They should have a better understanding of what is going into their bodies, and the toll it will take. They should not be pushed to the their breaking point before they can vote (in the United States). For that reason, I believe that the age level for SENIOR competition should be raised to NINETEEN (19), not the previously mentioned (by some pundits) 17, or even 18. If every competitor (or a vast majority) have experienced puberty we don't need to break 15 year olds so they can have 'one chance' to win a gold medal. So, punish Ms. Valieva by banning her from these Olympic games for testing positive for a controlled substance. Punish her coaches with lifetime bans from the sport, and the Russian Federation with a further 8 year ban (two more Olympics). Raise the senior age to 19, and then we can see Ms. Valieva skate at the Mediolanum Forum in Assago (outside Milan) in four years, during the 25th Winter Olympiad. This is, for me, a case of the adults in the room failing children. This is US Gymnastics, Ohio State wrestling. If we want a better future for our children we must build a better present, and we do that by protecting athletes; physically, mentally, and emotionally.

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