Gloating Russian media has delighted in Simone Biles‘ decision to withdraw from two events at the Tokyo Olympics for mental health reasons – saying she ‘couldn’t take the pressure’ their athletes put her under.
Columnists in Russia were sharply critical of the 24-year-old – in contrast to the support she has received in many parts of western media – saying she had ‘refused’ to compete and abandoned her teammates.
Russian media has long bridled at Biles’ use of banned medicines – which she is allowed to take due to a medical exemption for ADHD – with some even going so far as to link the ‘breakdown’ to her ‘drug use’.
‘Why did she come to Tokyo?’ the Moskovskij Komsomolets newspaper asked bluntly.
‘If you have problems with your head, you don’t have to come to the Olympic Games and let the team down.’
Simone Biles, Team USA’s star gymnast, withdrew from the team and individual all-round events at Tokyo due to ‘mental health’ issues after a stumble on the vault (right)
Russian newspaper Sport Express said that Biles ‘couldn’t take’ the pressure put on her, including by Russia’s athletes
Other media said that Biles had ‘refused’ to compete, questioning how ‘serious’ her mental health issues have to be for her to give up on Olympic gold
Others suggested that Biles’ ‘doping’ – she has a medical exemption to take otherwise banned substances due to ADHD – was linked to her ‘breakdown’
Biles – the most decorated American gymnast of all time with four Olympic golds and 19 in the world championships – had arrived in Tokyo as Team USA’s star athlete.
But her performances in qualifying suggested she was off her game, before a big stumble on the vault in the team event prompted her to withdraw.
Initially put down to ‘injury’, Biles later qualified that she had withdrawn to ‘focus on mental health’ and also withdrew from the individual all-round event – leaving question marks over her participation in other individual events.
Team USA ended up settling for silver in the team event with the Russian Olympic Committee taking gold, with two Russian athletes now hotly-tipped for the podium in the all-round.
Writing about her decision to pull out of the team event, Russian newspaper Sport Express acknowledged that mental health issues can badly affect athletes.
‘But is [withdrawing] what the leader of his national team should do in the final of the Olympics,’ the paper asked.
It continued: ‘Simply put – Biles could not stand it. Including the pressure of the Russian team. Well, if the opponent needs to be removed in this way – why not.
‘Just two years ago in Stuttgart at the World Championships, she took five gold medals out of six.
‘But if things are really that serious – the Olympic end of the 24-year-old American star is in danger of becoming inglorious.’
Moskovskij Komsomolets was stunned at her decision to withdraw, questioning how ‘serious’ her mental issues need to be to prompt her to quit.
The Russian Olympic Committee team – which is not allowed to compete as ‘team Russia’ due to a doping ban – went on to take gold in the team event after Biles withdrew
Biles and her teammates won silver (left) in the team gymnastics after she took a big stumble on the vault and then withdrew from the event
‘The word “serious” in case of refusal to fight for the team “gold” was already very dubious,’ the paper wrote, adding that: ‘Simone didn’t look particularly upset.
‘To a short question from our reporter about what happened, she answered shortly: “nothing”.
‘The worst performance of an American women’s team at the Olympics in the past decade is already in history,’ the newspaper added, before concluding: ‘The great Biles clearly did not find a balance in Tokyo.’
Media mouthpiece Vladimir Kornilov went significantly further, linking Biles’ withdrawal from the Games to what he called her ‘drug use’.
‘The saddest in the story with Simone Biles’s “sudden” withdrawal from the Olympics is that everyone understands what is happening, but can’t say it,’ he said.
‘Everyone knows why these “awfully sick” athletes were winning.
‘My understanding is that problems of Biles, American swimmers and others were linked to the fact that the alchemists were preparing them to peak in summer 2020.
‘A human organism can’t stand this for two years in a row.’
State-owned news agency RIA Novosti aimed similar criticism at the gymnast, saying that ‘even doping could not save Biles at the Olympics.’
The outlet reported that Biles’ mental health issues are ‘nothing new’ and that she spoke about them years ago, at the same time she was out for what they described as ‘doping’.
RIA also reported comments from a number of Biles’ critics based in the US, saying that withdrawing for mental health reasons is a ‘miserable excuse’ calling it ‘a pity for the children who see their idols give up’.
Questions now remain over whether Biles will compete at other individual events in Tokyo
Commenting on her decision to withdraw, Biles today thanked fans for their support saying it made her realise that ‘I’m more than my achievements in gymnastics’.
Biles also hinted that the horrific sexual abuse she endured at the hands of pedophile doctor Larry Nassar is behind the mental health issues that prompted her shock withdrawal.
The 24-year-old drew a line between the trauma of Nassar’s abuse and her decision to pull out of events by retweeting a statement of support from a fellow gymnast – who recalled that Biles was ‘molested by her team doctor throughout her childhood’.
‘We are talking about the same girl who was molested by her team doctor throughout her entire childhood and teenage years,’ read the statement, which was written by former gymnast-turned-fitness trainer Andrea Orris.
It continued: ‘That girl has endured more trauma by the age of 24 than most people will ever go through in a lifetime.’
Although Biles, who was seen for the first time since the announcement when she stepped out to cheer on Team USA’s male gymnasts in Tokyo, did not issue her own statement about Nassar or her decision to pull out of the all-around, a US official told DailyMail.com that Orris’ message ‘sums up everything Simone is feeling’.
The source continued: ‘The fact that Simone has retweeted it, shows that she agrees with every word that’s been said on her behalf.’