What can be done about the Russians? Besides rattling their sabers on the Ukrainian border, they won’t play nice at the Olympics. They’re like the bad guest at a party who spills grape juice on the carpet and breaks the furniture and leaves a mess, but for some reason he gets invited to every party and does the same thing again.

The Russians have embarrassed themselves repeatedly in the Olympic Games; they either don’t care or don’t know.

So here we are at the end of another Olympic figure skating controversy (gee, we’ve never seen one of these before). If there’s cheating going on, probably Russia is in the details, and sure enough ... Russian skater Kamila Valieva flunked a drug test several weeks ago and yet was allowed to compete for reasons that defy common sense (which counts out the IOC). But this is bigger than one girl. This should be about the adults in the room, if there are any. She’s 15 and Russian, and the IOC (and Russia?) is in charge.

Do you need to know any more?

On Thursday, the latest Russian drug drama came to an end (?) when Valieva, the heavy gold medal favorite, crumbled under the immense pressure of all of the above, falling twice and stumbling. She finished fourth. Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, both of Russia — oh, sorry, the “Russian Olympic Committee” — won the gold and silver medals, respectively. As Valieva, who sobbed when the results were announced, came off the ice after her poor performance, she was scolded by her coach, according to NBC’s bilingual color analyst, Johnny Weir:

“Why did you let it get to you? Why did you stop fighting?” Russian coach Eteri Tutberidze said to Valieva.

According to another post on Twitter from someone who claimed to speak Russian, Valieva’s teammate, Trusova, overheard what the coach said and responded, “I hate you all, I hate this sport, I hate her (Anna), I will never skate again. You knew everything. You knew. I hate you all.”

Later, away from her coach, Trusova told reporters much the same thing: “Everyone has a gold medal, everyone, but not me. I hate skating. I hate it. I hate this sport. I will never skate again. Never. It’s impossible. That’s not how it should be.”

When she first heard that she had finished second, Trusova cried and initially refused to go to the awards ceremony before relenting. When asked about this later, she said, “I wanted to cry, so I cried. I’ve been three weeks alone without my mom, my dogs. So I cry.”

A who’s who of athletes with Utah ties competing in the 2022 Winter Games

This might be dismissed as simply a case of sour grapes if it were not part of a bigger picture that has emerged of the life of underage girls under Tutberidze and the Russian figure skating program. Their skaters tend to retire young and/or broken by injuries. Olympic medalist Yulia Lipnitskaya retired at 17 and said she had struggled with anorexia. Alina Zagitova, the 2018 Olympic champion at age 15, quit when she was 17 and told a reporter that there were times when Tutberidze’s girls weren’t allowed to drink water. Who knows if we’ll see Shcherbakova, Trusova and Valieva again. They are 17, 17 and 15, respectively, and already veterans of international competition.

Kamila Valieva, of the Russian Olympic Committee, talks with her coach Eteri Tutberidze after the women’s free skate program during the figure skating competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Beijing. | Natacha Pisarenko, Associated Press

If the International Skating Union had not mandated an age limit of 15 for international competition, the Russians (among others) would probably be pushing 13-year-olds onto the ice and scolding them if they didn’t perform well. There has been considerable debate about raising the age limit.

These young girls are pawns for Russia’s political aims. It’s fair to wonder if Valieva even knew she was taking a performance-enhancing drug. Drugs have been a big part of the Russian athletic program for decades. If the Eastern Bloc drug program of the Cold War really fell with the Berlin Wall, Russia has revived it. What sets it apart — what makes it the most troubling of any drug scandal — is that it is a systemic program, one that is sponsored, sanctioned and operated by the government, as was the Eastern Bloc program decades ago.


Their systemic drug use has been well documented. As early as 2010, members of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) began providing information secretly about a systemic drug program to the World Anti-Doping Agency. Documentaries, journalists and whistleblowers continued to feed damning information to WADA for the next few years of a state-sponsored drug program and a massive coverup.

Among other things, it was learned that Russia had produced a massive cheating scheme at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. In 2016, it was revealed that Russia had doctored drug-testing data to hide a drug program for more than 1,000 athletes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing. Be it sports, politics, hacking or war, the recent history of Russia’s relationship with the world can be summed up in one phrase: They get away with it. | Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press

The IOC eventually banned Russia from the next two Olympic Games, beginning in 2016 – sort of. Russian athletes, it was decided, were still allowed to compete if they had passed drug tests and been tested regularly; also, the IOC mandated that the Russian name, flag and national anthem was banned and that they must compete as a “neutral” team called Russia Olympic Committee or, in 2018, the Olympic Athletes of Russia.

Russian officials must have suffered from side-splitting laughter in the back room when they heard all this. As if to rub the IOC’s face in it, the athletes wore Russian flags on their sleeves in the opening ceremonies in clear violation of the IOC mandate. Vladimir Putin grinned and applauded through the opening ceremony, and why wouldn’t he?

In the history of the Olympic Games, Russia has been stripped of more medals for failed drug tests (51) than any other nation, and it’s not even close (four times more than the runner-up and 30% of the total). Despite the sanctions and the public revelations, they continue to cheat.

What does Russia have to do to truly get booted out of the Olympics — place their athletes on center ice and shoot them up with steroids with cameras rolling?

That probably wouldn’t do it either.