International Skating Union is set to raise the minimum age of competing athletes to age 17 following Kamila Valieva’s doping scandal during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
At the age of 15, Russian figure skater Valieva was a fan favorite going into the women’s figure skating competition during this year’s Olympics. As the first woman to ever land a quad jump during the competition, she was certainly a fan favorite and projected to go far. However, Valieva’s legacy was quickly halted when she tested positive for trimetazidine, a banned substance used to aid heart conditions.
From the perspective of the World Anti-Doping Agency, a positive test for a banned substance results in disqualification. But, for others, Valieva’s status as a minor was important to highlight in the conversation. As a 15-year-old, she could not consent to any major medical decisions and was unaware of the medication she was taking.
Kamila Valieva’s 2022 Beijing Doping Scandal leads athletes and coaches to re-evaluate minimum age requirements
The controversial situation involving Valieva has led many to question whether or not minors should be allowed to compete in such high-stakes competitions, considering their health could be at risk. As of this week, the ICU reached a new minimum age requirement: 17. According to NPR, “more than 960 athletes and coaches, saying 86% supported raising the age limit to 17 for senior competitions.”
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Among those in support of raising the age was Eric Radford, a three-time Olympic medalist from Canada. Given his first-hand experience in the competition, his opinion was highly valued and he argued that a medal is not worth the risk of possible health threats.
“The life of an athlete is short and intense. Their experience in this short period of their lives sets the stage for the rest of their lives, physically, mentally, and emotionally,” he relayed. “I pose the question: is a medal worth risking the health of a child or a young athlete?”
April Henning, a sports doping expert from the University of Stirling in Scotland weighed in on the conversation as well, giving her thoughts on the matter, believing that it is important to protect children from the risks of professional athleticism. “The physical, emotional, and social pressures of elite sport can be too much for adults to cope with and even more difficult for children,” she shared
“In terms of doping, this may offer some protection but really there needs to be greater independent oversight of how youth athletes are treated,” Henning continued. “This is especially true for athletes who are not yet in the anti-doping system and may be more vulnerable to both coercion and risk of harms from use.”
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