Russian Doping Scandal: Kamila Valieva and Trimetazidine
Updated: Jun 18, 2022
By Lynne Kim
April 1, 2022
UPDATED 12:00 PM EST
[Photo credit: Sky News]
When watching the Olympics, it’s noticeable that some athletes each year compete under a flag that isn’t their own. They compete under the Olympic banner and they are known as the ROC (Russian Olympic Committee). Many are unaware of the reason Russian athletes are unable to compete under their real name. Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov revealed Russia’s state-run doping program in 2016, which led to the ban of Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics. He had helped facilitate the doping scandal, which led him to flee Russia for fear of retaliation. The Russia Doping Scandal was ongoing and resulted in 46 Olympic medals stripped from the nation. Russia has the most competitors who have been caught doping for the Olympics. The most popular drug used for doping is called Trimetazidine (TMZ). It is “a medication used to treat heart-related conditions like angina” (Benisek). It allows more blood to flow to your heart and limits quick changes in your blood pressure, which relieves chest pain.
The most recent case with Russian doping was caught with 15-year-old figure skater Kamila Valieva. Her test was found positive, after lawyers argued that “contamination from the trimetazidine her grandfather was taking caused the positive test” (PBS). By increasing blood flow efficiency and improving endurance, it’s evident to any athlete that TMZ would help with athletic performance. Doctors no longer prescribed this drug due to “tinnitus, vertigo, and visual-field disturbances.” Due to the Russian Doping Scandal, TMZ has been put on the prohibited list by the World Anti-Doping Agency in the category of “hormone and metabolic modulators.”
TMZ shows improvement in exercise tolerance for mostly older patients who have already experienced cardiac diseases. According to Dr. Anton Rodionov, a prominent cardiologist in Moscow, it was never designed for athletes, which was why it was never tested to begin with. Valieva’s urine sample was taken by RUSADA (Russian Anti-Doping Agency) the day she won her women’s individual event at the Russian national championships on December 25th in Saint Petersburg. It was then sent to a WADA-authorized laboratory in Sweden. Russia’s own lab was shut down after their doping scandal, which was why it was sent to Sweden. Valieva’s test only ended up positive after she took gold for Russia in the team event. WADA has stated that “Russian officials failed to label the batch of samples as a high priority for analysis so close to the Winter games”, in its defense (PBS). Only the priority tests were being handled because the lab was short-staffed due to the wave of COVID-19 cases.
Valieva is one of many in the Russian doping scandal, and while she was protected because of her very young age, this issue raised a lot of controversy because most athletes competing believed it to be unfair. Doping enhances performance, which evidently signifies the unfairness for other athletes participating without doping. It is difficult to say whether Valieva’s concluding judgment was correct, but many Russian coaches have also forced their young athletes to partake in doping for their own advantage. Therefore, pardoning Valieva due to her young age may have been the only reasonable decision.
Benisek, Alexandra. “What Is Trimetazidine?” WebMD, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/what-is-trimetazidine#:~:text=Trimetazidine%20(TMZ)%20is%20a%20medication,pain%20from%20blocked%20blood%20vessels.
Dunbar, Graham, and Dasha Litvinova. “What Is the Drug behind Russia's Olympic Doping Case?” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 16 Feb. 2022, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/what-is-the-drug-behind-russias-olympic-doping-case.
“The Russian Doping Scandal.” CSCE, 28 May 2021, https://www.csce.gov/international-impact/events/russian-doping-scandal.