‘She defies the laws of physics’, concludes the BBC’s commentator following Kamila Valieva’s unprecedented performance at this year’s Winter Olympic’s in Beijing. Valieva secured gold for the ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) after landing two quadruple jumps, but her future hangs in the balance over allegations that she has tested positive for trimetazidine, a banned substance.

Since the news erupted many in the sporting world have been quick to defend the 15-year-old, citing disbelief, a lack of credible evidence in favour of trimetazidine as a performance-enhancer, and even raising the possibility of a lab mistake. But whatever outcome prevails, one thing should be left intact, and that is Ms Valieva herself.

It’s easy to miss a few crucial elements that, when combined, can produce exactly the type of scenario that we now have at the 2022 Olympic Games. Kamila Valieva is indubitably a victim of three inevitable forces: The System; comprising the International Olympic Committee, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Skating Union; The Sports itself; and the Russian State. Take the sluggish bureaucracy of the first, the ruthless nature of the second, and the destructive vanity of the third (characteristic of all states), and you have a gifted teenager predictably stonewalled by three hostilities.

Examining two of these, the Sports itself and the Russian State, is already enough to reveal the tremendous pressure placed on athletes to continually push the boundaries and bring home the gold. Valieva is only the second woman figure skater after Alexandra Trusova to land a quadruple toe loop. To appreciate this, let’s get a little closer to the anatomy of a quad jump where timing and technique are everything. This jump requires propelling yourself upwards at a 40-degree angle with a force that is ‘four times’ your body weight. You then make 4.5 to 6 swift, tight rotations that last for just 0.650 to 0.750 of a second. When it’s all over, the skater lands with a force ‘seven times their body weight’. Appreciating this means understanding exactly what Trusova and Valieva achieve on the ice: transcendence. But this level of mastery comes at a price. Former ice-skating stars and Olympic champions, Alexei Yagudin and Evgeni Plushenko can tell you a little about the cost of landing those quads and spinning those Biellmann spirals. After years of powering through the pain, in 2003 Yagudin underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right hip. Plushenko has confessed to having no less than 12 surgeries, including one in 2014 to repair a screw in his back that prevented him from competing in the infamous Sochi Olympics.

What relevance does any of this have to Valieva’s case? Quite a bit, actually. Russia is known for churning out star athletes, whether in figure skating or gymnastics (amongst other areas). The pressure to win is unprecedented because it equates to prestige for a country that has always viewed competition as an opportunity to raise its name before the world. This time round, Valieva is that star-child to carry the Russian flag — despite Russian Federation athletes having to compete under the bland ROC acronym following the 2014 doping scandal and ban.

Across Moscow and elsewhere, billboards have been raised in support amidst the allegations, saying: ‘We’re with you Kamila!’ The possibility of a false test result is by no means inconceivable. As is the argument that taking trimetazidine for anything other than angina (and only when other therapies have failed) does more harm than good, with vertigo and nausea being amongst the possible side effects.

Continuing to speculate on whether Valieva has taken a banned substance to supposedly enhance her performance is to ask the wrong question. Should trace amounts be confirmed, the only question to consider is who was responsible for allowing this to happen. What once seemed impossible is now becoming standardized. This year it’s the women’s quad, what’s next – a quintuple? All sports take their pound of flesh. However, no drug (that we know of) can produce the exceptional performance this young woman achieved. No verdict can take it away from her.

DISCLAIMER: The articles on our website are not endorsed by, or the opinions of Shout Out UK (SOUK), but exclusively the views of the author.