IOC Dismisses Sha'Carri Richardson's Claims of Bias After Kamila Valieva Ruling

An Olympic official denied suggestions of a double standard in the decision to ban American track star Sha'Carri Richardson while allowing Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva to compete despite a positive drug test.

Richardson, 21, tested positive for cannabis compound THC and accepted a one-month suspension from track and field events beginning on June 28, 2021. The sanction by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) meant she later missed the delayed 2020 Tokyo Games held during July and August 2021.

The sprinter aired her grievances on Twitter on Monday after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) allowed ROC athlete Valieva, 15, to compete in her remaining events this week, giving the skater a chance at another gold medal despite having tested positive for the prohibited substance trimetazidine, a heart medication that has the potential to increase endurance. The CAS ruling was based on Valieva's status as a minor and the circumstances of her case, including the fact that the positive sample was collected on December 25, but it wasn't without its controversies—and Richardson demanded an answer.

"Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mines? My mother died and I can't run and was also favored to place top 3. The only difference I see is I'm a black young lady," she wrote. "It's all in the skin. Not one BLACK athlete has been about to compete with a case going on, I don't care what they say!!!"

At a daily press conference in Beijing on Wednesday, International Olympic Committee spokesperson Mark Adams dismissed suggestions of bias and said the two cases couldn't be compared. He didn't respond to accusations of a racial element.

"Obviously, every single case is different, and this one hasn't even reached the end of its case yet," he said. The IOC has said Valieva's case remains under investigation; she will skate in Thursday's medal event, which she is expected to win, but her results would be accompanied by an asterisk to signal her legal situation.

"In terms of Ms. Richardson's case, she tested positive on June 19 [2021], quite a way ahead of the [Tokyo] games. The results came in early order for USADA to deal with the case on time before the games," said Adams. "Ms. Richardson accepted a one-month period of ineligibility, which began on June 28, so I would suggest that there isn't a great deal of similarity between the two cases."

Following Richardson's suspension last year, she told NBC's Today program that she would take responsibility for her actions. She apologized to fans and sponsors and said she would be ready to compete at the next Olympics, which are the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.

According to the regulations of the World Anti-Doping Agency, because Valieva is under the age of 16 and therefore classified as a "protected person," she would be granted leniency in a hypothetical guilty verdict. Her case has overshadowed the final days of the Beijing Games, with U.S. Olympic officials going as far as calling into question the integrity of sport. The IOC argues it has a duty to act strictly within the provisions of the law while also balancing the interests of Olympic athletes.

IOC President Thomas Bach is due at Thursday's press conference, before Valieva's final event, in order to answer questions about the committee's handling of her case, the only suspected doping incident to have taken place at the 2022 Winter Olympics so far. After the games close on Sunday, international athletes are expected to leave the Olympic bubble within 48 hours, a Chinese official said.

IOC Denies Bias In Kamila Valieva Ruling
This combination of photographs shows U.S. track athlete Sha'Carri Richardson (L) and Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva (R). At a press conference on February 16, 2022, the International Olympic Committee dismissed accusations of bias made by Richardson, who was suspended before the delayed 2020 Tokyo Summer Games following a positive drug test. Russian figure skater Valieva has been allowed to compete at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games despite an ongoing investigation into an alleged positive drug test. Jonathan Ferrey /ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/GETTY IMAGES/AFP via Getty Images