Staff Editorial: How young is too young to compete for gold?

by the editorial staff

Feb. 24, 2022

As the Olympics concluded this week, supporters across the nation are left with many concerns after the disaster in Beijing: from disqualifications, to fake snow to Covid-19 concerns.

But with all of these issues that caught our eyes during these 2022 Winter Olympics, the most alarming of all was Kamila Valieva’s positive drug test. 

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) skater should not have been skating at the games. Not because of the failed drug test taken on Christmas Day, but because Valieva is only 15 years old.

Valieva is no doubt a star in the world of skating, but it’s time that the committee raises the minimum age in figure skating from 15 to 18, not only for the physical health of these young athletes, but also their mental health.

The case has brought the 15-year-old face to face with intense focus and scrutiny during the games, and was even seen crying during a practice session prior to the women’s individual event.

Expected to win gold in all competitions, the ROC figure skating star failed to place in the free skate event, falling (literally) and figuratively from first to fourth as the night went on.

When the routine was over, she buried her face in her hands and left the ice in tears, with no support from her coaches or team.

In regular everyday sports, we don’t often see children competing alongside adults at a professional level such as the Olympics; children compete against children, adults against adults. 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport even cater to this reality by abiding by WADA’s ‘protected persons’ selections — which includes minors. Like in Valieva’s case, all three agencies agree they should be prosecuted differently because they don’t understand the consequences of such actions.

The case of Valieva, and other minors caught in banned medication scandals, such as Romanian gymnast Andreea Raducan, often really don’t understand the consequences; they blindly follow the orders of coaches that they feel will give them the best chance at winning.

But the question is: Why are they even there in the first place if they don’t understand the consequences?

According to an article by insidethegames, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams argued that he thinks, “What would be disappointing is if we did not allow the opportunity for these athletes to grasp their dreams.”

What’s even more disappointing is allowing a child to go through rigorous training that puts tremendous strain on their bodies — and an unbelievable strain on their mental fortitude. 

An age limitation in the Olympics is long overdue; the young stars will get their chance when they’re old enough.