(Wednesday, February 9, 2022) GLAAD, the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is speaking out about the unequal treatment of athletes who test positive for banned substances.
15-year-old Kamila Valieva of Russia was allowed to compete in the 2022 Beijing Olympics after testing positive for trimetazidine—a heart medication—in December. Her failed test results were revealed last week. U.S. sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson was denied a chance to compete in the Summer Games in Tokyo after testing positive for THC, a chemical component found in marijuana and a banned substance. Richardson's test results were posted within a week of her failed test.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that Valieva could compete in Beijing, saying suspension from Olympic competition would cause the 15-year-old "irreparable harm." Richardson's suspension was enforced by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
Richardson said she smoked pot after her mother died to manage her grief. Both athletes were favored in their prospective sports. Richardson tweeted on Monday: "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."
Adam Rippon, former U.S. Olympic figure skater and current coach of U.S. skater Mariah Bell, spoke out on TikTok and Twitter about how the rules were unfairly enforced: "This entire situation is completely heartbreaking… Every other athlete in this competition is having their whole Olympic experience altered to accommodate an athlete with a FAILED test. The entire (Russian Olympic Committee) should not be here. They've exploited a child for results and continue to cheat and suffer no consequences."
"We continue to witness scrutiny and policing of athletes who are Black, trans, and queer, while allowing white, cisgender athletes to bend and break the rules," said Ross Murray, Vice President of the GLAAD Media Institute. "It's time for policies around Olympic participation to apply to all athletes equally."
Rules against marijuana use have origins in racism. The ACLU reported in early February on the disproportionate criminalization of marijuana on Black and Brown people compared to white people as marijuana decriminalization takes place throughout the U.S. "The historic prejudice Black people endure under these archaic laws must not be allowed to continue a moment longer," said the ACLU report.
Other Black athletes were barred and targeted in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Namibian runners Christine Moma and Beatrice Masilingi were banned from competing in the 400-meter race because their natural levels of testosterone were too high, a rule implemented in 2018 by World Athletics to keep competitions at a "level playing field."
Read about the racial and social justice history of the Olympics in GLAAD's Guide to Covering LGBTQ Athletes at the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics. At least 36 out athletes are competing in Beijing this year.
GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org or connect with GLAAD on Facebook and Twitter.