There are few things in any field of athletic endeavor that are certain. Everything in sports involves at least some element of doubt. But occasionally there are sure things that are actually sure. John Wooden's UCLA Bruins. Red Auerbach's Celtics. Wayne Gretzky winning scoring titles. Tiger Woods in Majors from 1999-2000. Tom Brady making it to at least his conference's championship game. Hulk Hogan retaining the heavyweight belt.
And one such sure thing has been Kamila Valieva winning Ladies' Figure Skating gold in Beijing. At least according to the only source I or you need. The world's foremost authority on the sport has been waking me up at all ungodly hours watching Valieva videos in bed since at least last summer. And my graceful, Dorothy Hammill-like Irish Rose has assured me time and again that not only do the Team USA Ladies have no chance to win at these Games, no one else does either. It's a one-girl race, and everyone else is vying for silver.
Unless. Unless something really stunning happens. And it has:
Source - Russian media reported on Wednesday that 15-year-old figure skater Kamila Valieva had tested positive for a banned drug, after the ceremony to present her and her team mates with their Olympic gold medals was postponed for unexplained legal reasons.
Newspapers RBC and Kommersant named the drug as Trimetazidine, which is used to treat angina.
The news broke late at night in Beijing, where Valieva was part of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) ensemble that won the figure skating team event on Monday ahead of the United States and Japan. ...
Trimetazidine is listed on the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) list of metabolic modulators, and is banned in and out of competition.
Russian athletes are competing at the Beijing Games as representatives of ROC, without their flag and national anthem, because of sanctions against their country for previous doping violations.
Holy shit. This isn't a "Big, if true" situation. It's a "Seismic event that will rock Olympics to their foundation and set off a tsunami that will wipe out Russia's pride and joy sport, if true" scenario.
To circle back and compare Valieva to other dominant athletes, this is Michael Jordan testing positive during shoot arounds before Game 1 of the Finals. This is the Patriots getting caught filming an opponents sideline in the first minute of Super Bowl LI. It's the Astros banging trash can lids in the 1st inning of Game 1 versus the Braves last October. It's monumental.
I mean, Russia has already been caught doping more than Bob Baffert and are on double secret probation, competing under that weird ROC banner. Which somehow means they're not representing Russia. They're just a team made up entirely of Russians with the word "Russia" right in their name. And with the extremely Russian Putin sitting in the stands cheering for them and them only. So they manage to give off a decidedly Russia vibe, while they're supposed to technically be some other thing entirely. It's a damned shame Princess Leia didn't think of this when the Empire boarded her ship. She could've just told Vader, "We're not the Rebel Alliance. We're the RAOC," and they could've taken those stolen plans wherever they wanted. But I digress.
The effect of this could be and should be ginormous. Beginning with the
Russians ROC being stripped of their medal and Team USA being awarded the gold. Then you have to wonder if they'll be allowed to continue to compete, since again, there is enough of a history of this that they're flag has been banned from the Games like it's a "Where is Peng Shuai?" banner.
But the one who really deserves our concern and our sympathy is Kamila Valieva herself. She's 15. And even if she's a 15-year-old mature enough to compete on the world stage at the very top of her sport, she's still a child. When I was her age, I was obsessing of sports and other nonsense and peppering all my conversations with "Star Wars" references. (Oh, right. I get your point.) You can't hold her accountable for what she was no doubt ordered to do by the ROC.
In so many countries, prodigies who show promise at a young age get raised like veal calves to do the one thing they are good at, for the glory of the nation. Their own hopes and dreams be damned. Whether they be athletes, musicians, dancers, or very attractive trained assassins. Kamila Valieva may have had Trimetazidine in her system, but I can assure you she didn't put it there. It was the adults in charge of stopping at nothing to see their country gets to bring home medals. That is a certainty more certain than her winning the Ladies Figure Skating gold.
And I shudder to think what her future is going to be like now.