Why is Figure Skating still an Olympic Sport?

Every Winter Olympic Games there is scandal in figure skating and it usually involves Russians and doping or bribing and cheating. The country’s name and flag have been banned from the Olympics since 2018 as a punishment from the World Anti-Doping Agency. It was a group of athletes from Russia, not involved in the doping scheme who appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to be allowed to compete as neutral competitors. Competing as the Olympic Athletes from Russia they have adopted the acromym ROC — Russian Olympic Committee when competing. But somehow, Russia fails to understand what being penalized truly means. They continue to sabotage their athletes but doping them without them even knowing it and the younger and more naive the athlete, the easier it is for them to be duped.

It is hardly likely 15 year old skating phenom, Kamila Valieva chose to consume a banned substance used for angina patients. The drug in question, Trimetazidine, can potentially help athletes perform at a higher heart rate for a longer period of time. This means on Olympic sized hockey arena ice, which is bigger than NHL ice, a trick laden routine can sap your energy. But if your heart rate is up and you can still keep going without feeling tired, well, you just might win an Olympic medal, preferably a gold.

But results and information about cheating always has a way of leaking out during the most important competition for an athlete. As it stands, the figure skating world has a catty, diva-ish aura and a shady side when it comes to judges and scoring. You could be perfect in every way and come 4th while a favourite athlete from a certain country could fall on their ass multiple times and win gold. Skating tetters between the world of performance art and sport. In my opinion, it is closer to ballet than it is to sport with the music, the costumes and the makeup. Of course, like ballet and gymnastics (another question mark in the Olympics with it’s own share of abuse and judging scandals), figure skating requires a great deal of strength and athleticism. What is disgustingly and unfair is that this so-called sport requires the dedication, determination and sacrifice of any other sport but it seems to be the one in which adults are able to abuse and manipulate young athletes, especially young girls.

The story of Kamila Valieva is a tragedy. Four years ago she was an 11-year old girl who loved to skate and was damn good at it. Now she is a broken 15-year old who was embarassed and confused and splashed across the media and the internet for something that was done to her, most likely without her understanding or knowing that she was being doped. The Olympics are an athlete’s dream and Kamila’s own country truned her dream into a nightmare. Still, they young skater, went onto the ice and performed her two routines as best as she could given the pressure, scrutiny she was under and the comments she might have heard from other athletes and coaches. She fell numerous times but she tried her best. She even told the lie they told her to tell whe she said she most likely sipped water that belonged to her grandfather who uffers from heart disease. Yeah, that’s right, that’s how she got an angina medication in her system along with some other stuff too… Drugs incidentally, that have been previously found in bobsledders and cross country skiers that caused the ban placed on Russia from the games.

The cover was blown when the silver medal Russian skater, Alexandra Trusova, who was supposed to be part of a teenage Russian podium sweep, broke down and angrily expressed her hatred of the sport, and her hatred of her coach whom she told off just before the medal ceremony.

“You know everything that was going on!” she shouted at her in Russian. “I did four quads and I came second. Everybody has a gold medal except me. I am never going on the ice again. I hate it! I hate this sport!”

Since Valieva bombed her routine and didn’t make it onto the podium, the winners were able to have their medal ceremony, which is everything to an athlete at the Olympic Games. Two of Russia’s teens placed first and second and Japan took the bronze. I will not be surprised if we see Valieva skate again but I would completely understand if she didn’t. We know silver medalist Alexandra Trusova isn’t interested in representing her country again. Perhaps Russia should just be banned from the Olympics once and for all. Perhaps, figure skating should not be a sport but a performance fans and spectators pay to attend like a play, ballet or symphony. It is no good at being a sport because it is laden with scandal and cheating and for what? Ruining the greatest feeling an athlete can have after devoting their life to their passion and representing their country with pride. I don’t think representing ROC is easy. I don’t think it is worth the pain or the shame this young is feeling and will feel for years to come. Maybe figure skating could be a part of the opening and closing ceremonies of the games. Maybe it would be more successful and gentler on skaters if it becomes a stand alone art form. I will gladly pay admission to a figure skating show but I cannot bring myself to watch it as sport when all I see every four years is some little girl or boy of the moment sitting between adult coaches clutching a stuffed animal and weeping over missed jumps and tricks and low scores, due to the pressure of a scandal. Perhaps the only way to fix the problem with competitive figure skating is to get rid of competitive figure skating.