It’s been clear for some time that sport is broken.

Well, maybe not sport as a whole but, certainly, elite sport is broken.

From the endless doping bans dished out to athletes in almost every discipline imaginable to sports discarding their morals to sell-out to Saudi Arabia’s riches to financial fair play rules being broken to the men in blazers being endlessly embroiled in corruption scandals, it’s been quite some time since anyone was under the illusion that professional sport is in a good place.

But this week, the definitive proof of the hole into which elite sport has fallen came with the confirmation that we are now doping children.

Such is the value placed upon sporting success, it’s accepted, in some quarters at least, that doping children is a sacrifice worth making if the return is a potential gold medal.

And what makes it worse, in this case in point at least, is that the solution that was landed upon was to blame the child and not the system which led to a minor being doped and in turn, testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Earlier this week, Russian figure skater, Kamila Valieva, was handed a four-year ban for failing an anti-doping test back in December 2021.

Her case became particularly high-profile when the result of her positive test emerged during the 2022 Winter Olympics where, having begun the Games as one of the hot favourites for figure skating gold, the then 15-year-old helped Russia win team gold, was then disqualified, reinstated and then crashed out of individual medal contention, all within the space of a just a few days.

After a lengthy process, the entirely discredited Russian Anti-Doping Federation cleared the teenager of any wrong-doing before that controversial decision was challenged by the World Anti-Doping Agency at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). And earlier this week, the teenager was found guilty of an anti-doping rule violation.

The court’s ruling means Valieva, who’s now 17, has been handed a four-year ban and all her competitive results have been wiped-out, including those from the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Another drug cheat caught is surely a good thing, right?

Well, no.

The thing is, even for the most ferocious supporters of cracking down on drugs cheats, it’s impossible to view Valieva as anything other than a victim.

The Herald: Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva in action

If we presume her excuse of contamination isn’t legitimate, and no hard evidence was presented to suggest it was, then from that we must deduce that the banned substance entered her system intentionally.

And don’t ever try to tell me that a 15-year-old is driving the decision to dope.

There are no plausible explanations that have a 15-year-old being the orchestrator of this mess.

I can believe that a 15-year-old would go along without resistance with a doping programme, but that says much more about the power coaches and management hold over elite athletes than it says about consent.

A 15-year-old not saying no to being doped does not mean they’re saying yes.

Which is why this conclusion to Valieva’s case is so dissatisfactory.

Yes, a four-year ban is standard for an athlete who’s committed the violation that the teenager has been found guilty of.

But by pinning most, or even all, the blame on her is excusing the system that doped her.

Even those with the most fleeting of interest in sport know that the past decade has ensured Russian athletes are, without exception, viewed with a constant air of suspicion.

This is what makes it considerably easier to pin the blame on Valieva – she’s just one of hundreds of cheating Russians, isn’t she?

Except to view her case in such a light is not only reductive, but dangerous.

Yes, sport is important but it can never become so important that doping a child and then leaving her to take the fall when it goes wrong is accepted by the wider sporting community.

Sport is important, and clean sport is even more important. But it’s not worth this.

Watching the sporting world catch and then punish a child for something that she’s so clearly a victim of rather than an orchestrator of is not just sad, it’s harrowing.



The suggestion this week that Andy Murray is tarnishing his legacy by continuing his career despite his recent run of poor results is demonstrably false.

Almost nobody would claim that any bad result or poor performance in these closing stages of his career would do anything to harm his standing as Scotland’s greatest-ever sportsperson.

His rebuke to the aforementioned suggestion that his legacy could be damaged included the statement that: “Most people would quit and give up in my situation. But I’m not most people and my mind works differently.”

That Murray’s mind works differently to most is patently true.

It’s this mindset that both got him to where he’s been, and is preventing him from walking away.

The suggestion that a kid from Dunblane could become Wimbledon champion was preposterous but Murray believed it, and he accomplished it.

The Herald: Andy Murray

Similarly, the suggestion that Murray still has the ability to beat the world’s very best tennis players seems unrealistic, to observers anyway, given his recent form.

But the unfailing belief that, against the odds, took him to number one in the world is the same unfailing belief that tells him not to hang up his racquet quite yet.

He may or may not be proven right.

But irrespective of the outcome of the latter part of his career, we must remember that his stubbornness and refusal to accept the likely outcome is what made him so great in the first place.