WOULD it even be the Olympic Games if it wasn’t mired in a doping scandal? Modern-day sport has ensured we don’t know the answer to that question.

Such is the regularity of doping becoming one of the headline stories of recent Olympics, it seems unimaginable that a clean Games is even a possibility anymore.

Beijing 2022 has been no different.

The news that Russia’s Kamila Valieva, who was set to be one of the breakout stars of these Games, failed a drug test in December
has overshadowed what was looking likely to be a multi-medal winning two weeks for the figure skater.

At only 15, Valieva has already made history; just a few days ago, during the team event in Beijing, she landed the first quadruple jumps by a woman in Olympic competition.

The Russian team went on to finish first in that event but the medal ceremony was postponed, and has still not been held, after it emerged that Valieva had tested positive for banned angina drug Trimetazidine in a sample collected by Russian authorities at their national championships on Christmas Day.

It is unclear as to why there was a delay of such length between the test and the result but in a farcical turn of events, Russia’s anti-doping body, RUSADA, banned the teenager on hearing of her positive result last week but then only a day later, overturned their own ban.

The case will be heard by the Court of Arbitration of Sport over the weekend and will rule tomorrow on whether Valieva can begin the individual event on Tuesday but whatever the outcome, this is already a far from typical doping case.

Firstly, it is inconceivable that Valieva has taken a banned substance without anyone in her inner circle being aware of this.

Has Valieva herself even been aware of what she was taking, the effect of it and the likelihood of her failing a doping test as a result of using it.

Whatever the answers, someone far higher up the chain than Valieva must be held accountable.

Perhaps even more relevantly, Russia’s dealing with the matter is surely proof that the sanctions imposed on them are not working.

Following the uncovering of one of the most sophisticated doping programmes ever seen, the International Olympic Committee wriggled around and fudged taking any hard action on Russia.

Instead, Russia’s athletes were almost immediately able to return to the Olympic stage, but this time under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee rather than Russia itself, with the Russian flag not permitted.

There are few in the sporting world, particularly those athletes who had been cheated out of medals, who considered this a true punishment for Russia’s egregious behaviour.

So, in the case of Valieva and the fact Beijing is now being dominated by a doping story, the IOC and the Olympic movement are getting what they deserve.

Russia has got away with doping, once, twice, maybe even more than that. So, is it any surprise they believed they could again?

The IOC have treated the integrity of sport with contempt in recent years. 

Few watch the Olympic Games and believe they are clean, and much of that reputational damage is as a result of the way the IOC have handled Russia.

So, as the Valieva case plays out, don’t pin the blame on the teenager, or even on Russia.  This latest doping scandal is down to the IOC and their weak response to so many drugs cheats in the past.


As if yet another example of the cruelty of elite sport was needed, one came in the shape of the announcement last week by Juan Martin del Potro of his looming retirement.

The Argentinian was one of the few tennis players who the big three of Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic truly feared and had his career not been decimated by injury,  he would likely have collected far more than his single Grand Slam title.

His victory in the 2009 US Open final over Federer, having defeated Nadal in the semis, showcased a game so powerful few, if any, could match.

However, rather than build on that victory, within months a wrist injury emerged that would plague him for the next decade.

Numerous comebacks were thwarted by a recurrence of his wrist issue and although he made it back into the world’s top five – a remarkable feat when unable to play a drive backhand – he was never the same threat.

Of all the players who are loved and respected in modern-day tennis, few have reached the levels Del Potro enjoyed.

His retirement has been met with a wave of positivity and while that clearly touched him, it seems certain he would have swapped at least a portion of
his popularity for a less injury-interrupted career.

But elite sport does not work like that, and so all we are left with is wondering quite how much Del Potro would have won, and how different the Grand Slam title race between Federer, Nadal and Djokovic would look, had he not been treated quite so cruelly by tennis’ injury gods.