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Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee reacts after competing in the women's short program at the Beijing Olympics, on Feb. 15.EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/Reuters

Hours after being made into a global pariah, 15-year-old figure skater Kamila Valieva was back on the practice rink.

All the sparkle we’d seen a week ago was gone. Now that she lives in sporting limbo, Valieva sounds like the despondent uncle in a Chekhov play.

“These days have been very difficult for me,” she told reporters. “I am happy, but emotionally tired.”

On Tuesday night here, Valieva wobbled, but would not fall. She’s in first place after the short program, and will skate for gold on Thursday.

However, she can’t be awarded gold no matter what she does. If she wins any sort of medal, no one else can be awarded any other sort of medal, lest it turn out that Valieva, who tested positive for a forbidden drug in December, be banned retroactively from this competition, which she was pre-emptively cleared for.

Got it? No? Too bad. Surrender to Olympic logic. Things will go a lot easier for you that way.

Everyone around the Olympics has grown so used to these Gordian problems – ones that can never be solved, only hacked through temporarily – that they’ve lost sight of the basics.

Decision to let Kamila Valieva continue competing in Beijing is yet another doping joke in a long-running farce

Valieva is still here because of her age. A Court of Arbitration for Sport panel decided this week that “preventing the athlete from competing at the Olympic Games would cause her irreparable harm.”

Despite how angry it’s made PED purists, it’s a reasonable position. Children need protecting. I think most people are on board with that general proposition. If that is the case, why are children in the Olympics at all?

Why do we think it is sane that Valieva finds herself in this position? Why are we alternately fighting over her, laughing at her and berating her like she is a 30-year-old who just committed a particularly galling fraud?

We allow ourselves that freedom – a freedom we wouldn’t take with any other child – because she does sport well.

They don’t let children into the NBA or the NFL. They have very specific rules that prevent it.

But the Olympics happily puts minors in this weird position – where they are weighed and judged while the world watches, making nothing for themselves and enriching an army of sports bureaucrats.

Extend the CAS panel’s rationale on this a little further.

Valieva is a child and, as such, deserves more of our consideration. Being tossed out of the Olympics would harm her psychologically. It might trail her the rest of her life.

So why do we continue to put other children in the position where this can happen to them? You needn’t test positive for drugs to take a mental beating at the Olympics.

Look at the public scourging U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin has endured over the course of two weeks here.

Shiffrin is 26. She can make her own decisions about how she puts herself out there. But what if she were 16?

Well, what if? If Shiffrin were a gymnast or a platform diver instead of a slalom racer, she might be that age. And it wouldn’t prevent anyone from allowing her to go through the same emotional tortures, because that’s how the Olympics works. If you can qualify, you can compete.

A 14-year-old Chinese platform diver named Quan Hongchan won Olympic gold last summer in Tokyo. No sensible country would let her vote, or drive a car, or sign a legal contract, or join the army.

But Quan was allowed to go to the Olympics as a gold-medal favourite and maybe humiliate herself, or just garden-variety collapse, or have an otherwise highly negative, life-defining moment.

Which would you rather do – crack up your mom’s car or fail miserably on national TV while everyone you knew watched? Which one do you think you’d still be thinking about a decade later?

For every Quan, there are a dozen others who don’t succeed. We don’t hear so much about how it works out for them. Because they’re losers, so who cares?

If we agree that minor athletes deserve special protection, then why do we continue to put them in special peril at the Olympics?

There is no reason to have children here. Nobody needs to speed skate or whatever in an Olympics at 16. They can wait a few years. The Olympics aren’t going anywhere.

We don’t let them drink at that age for the same reason we ought not let them loose at a Games – bad things can happen here that you might not be able to shake, and you lack the sense to see that or deal with it.

The same bad things happen to adults, and just as damagingly, but that’s part of being a grown-up. You assume your own risks. A line has to be drawn somewhere. Centuries of human development have drawn it. The International Olympic Committee ignores that line.

Then there is the pettiness with which they are treating Valieva. The IOC’s answer to the CAS’s reasonable suggestion is to promise her further humiliations. There will be no medal ceremony if Valieva is part of it.

It’s not good enough that she gets called on the carpet by the world’s commentariat. Now she’ll also be responsible for robbing her colleagues of their own big moment. She’s the one ruining everything.

What part of this plan represents any ideal, never mind an Olympic one? It’s pure mean-spiritedness. It’s casual cruelty straight out of Mean Girls, but with irritated plutocrats doing the damage instead of high schoolers.

No one’s exempt from blame here. What dangers will minor athletes face from their caretakers now that the CAS has made it clear they can be doped to the gills, and might still get away with it?

It’s never a great time to be a kid anywhere. But right here, right now, it’s looking especially iffy.

Raising the minimum age at a Games to 18 won’t solve all problems. It won’t protect other fragile or otherwise impressionable people from getting run over. It won’t end the cult of achievement or stop others from finding ways to ruin childhood.

But it might at least protect the most vulnerable Olympians from one group – the people who control the Olympics.

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