Russian Embassy in South Africa shockingly referred to tennis legend Serena Williams and gymnast Simone Biles as dopers, in a sarcastic social media post comparing them to Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva who has recently received a four-year suspension for testing positive for a banned drug.
Kamila Valieva has been suspended from the sport until 2025 due to an anti-doping rule violation. The 17-year-old, who secured a gold medal in the team event at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing as part of the Russian Olympic Committee, is required to surrender all titles, awards, medals, profits, prizes, and appearance money earned from December 25, 2021.
In response to the news, the Russian Embassy took to X and shared a collage comprising three photos. The post underscored the slender physique of the Russian figure skater, sarcastically labeling her as the “doper,” contrasted with the muscular and powerful physiques of American athletes Williams and Biles, mockingly suggesting that their strength must be attributed to consuming “cereal.”
Facing criticism for the post largely perceived as racist and sexist, the Embassy promptly deleted it and issued a public apology. In their explanation, the Embassy clarified that the sarcastic comparison stemmed from alleged evidence of doping involving Williams and Biles.
The Embassy explained the evidence behind their deleted post:
In 2016, WADA documents were leaked on the Internet, revealing that both Serena Williams and Simone Biles used doping – under the so-called “Therapeutic Use Exemptions” (TUEs). The antidoping agency confirmed the authenticity of the documents.
According to the media, Serena Williams received five TUEs in 2014 and 2015 for the corticosteroids prednisone and prednisolone, and another TUE for a narcotic painkiller oxycodone. Corticosteroids reduce swelling and inflammation, and also heighten some physiological functions.
After clarifying the reason for their shocking comparison, the Embassy issued an apology:
In any case, we regret that some of our friends saw other message in it. There is no and couldn’t be racial or gender context, as Russia has always stood against any form of xenophobia and discrimination and will always do so.