I have always subscribed to the view that if you are old enough to be at an Olympic Games, you are old enough to play by the rules. After all, I was just 13 when I went to my first Olympics in 1976 and some of the East Germans I swam against there and in 1980 were barely much older.
So, although I feel very sorry for Kamila Valieva, her age should be irrelevant when it comes to being allowed to compete at the Winter Games. If you are caught taking a drug, you are caught taking a drug and you cannot treat anyone any differently, whether they are 15 or 25.
Yet, that is exactly what seems to have happened in this case, from the moment she took a test last year, to the inexplicable delay in that coming back positive – allowing her to win a gold medal this week – to Russia’s lifting of the provisional suspension imposed on her.
Now, she is being allowed to continue competing while the country responsible for the world’s biggest doping scandal tries to explain away her taking an angina drug at the age of 15.
The whole thing is a comedy of errors, and it is one sport has brought on itself through its failure to take Russia’s doping problem seriously.
If it had wanted to send the right message, that state-run doping programs will not be tolerated, there would not have been a single Russian athlete at the Winter Games in the first place. To have a Russian team performing at any Olympics under the name of the Russian Olympic Committee when Russia is meant to be banned from world sport is ridiculous.
That ban was nowhere near tough enough to force the country to change its ways after operating a state program there for years and this case seems to show it will not do so until it faces proper sanctions.
If the International Olympic Committee had any backbone, it would have thrown the entire Russian team out of the Winter Games the moment Valieva failed a drug test. But it has never had the stomach to do what is necessary to confront the country’s cheating. So these kinds of decisions need to be taken completely out of the IOC’s hands and put in those of an independent authority.
The whole thing is so corrupt and driven by money nowadays that it has meant athletes are no longer front and center, which is where they are supposed to be.
I was just a teenager when I first experienced how horrible it is to be competing against someone you know or suspect has been doping. I swam for all of my career against people that were drugged up to the eyeballs and we absolutely categorically knew it at the time.
We were not allowed to talk about it and were told by our associations that we were just being bad losers. It was absolutely crazy and nobody did anything.
We still have not got our rightful medals, and the IOC is still doing its damnedest to not give us our medals, even though it has every piece of proof possible. Even when we were inside its so-called window for doing something about it, after the Berlin Wall came down, it did nothing.
So, forgive me if I have absolutely no faith that anything good will come of the Valieva case either.