Wednesday March 22, 2023

Russia shuns ‘swindler’, ‘defector’ whistleblowers

By our correspondents
June 16, 2016

MOSCOW: Russia has turned on the whistleblowers who blew open the doping and corruption scandal that threatens to see the country’s athletes barred from the Rio Olympics.

In 2014, track star Yuliya and her husband Vitaly Stepanov, who had worked at the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), appeared in a German television documentary, claiming widespread doping fraud in the Russian sports system.

The Stepanovs alleged that officials within the now-disgraced Russian athletics federation supplied banned substances in exchange for 5% of an athlete’s earnings. Officials, they said, also worked closely with anti-doping officers to falsify or keep quiet tests.

Yuliya Stepanova added that it was also common for Russian athletes training outside of Russia to avoid out-of-competition testing by using false names.

The sensational revelations helped plunge the IAAF into crisis and led to the Russian federation being provisionally banned.

“Who is this (Vitaly) Stepanov?” Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko asked last month.

“He was kicked out of here like a swindler,” R-Sport news agency quoted Mutko as saying.

“Unfortunately, he is for some reason interesting to the makers of some kind of films, television shows. You understand what is behind this. Of course there is a campaign against us, but what can you do.”

Stepanov’s allegations, Mutko added, were an “information attack against Russia”.

Yuliya Stepanova, who following her claims left Russia for Germany with her husband and then eight-month-old son, has since settled in the United States.

The IAAF Council will likely rule at its extraordinary meeting in Vienna on Friday if Stepanova, who herself served a two-year ban for doping, be allowed to compete in Rio under a different flag, IAAF president Sebastian Coe having said the body was ready to reach out to the 800m runner.

“We are not concerned about the possibility of Stepanova competing at the Olympics, but it should not be some kind of reward and become standard,” Mutko warned.

“It’s one thing if she was denouncing everybody before she was suspended, before she got caught for doping, but it’s another thing when she says all this once she has been caught. So it turns out that we are rewarding her?”

Mutko’s woes as he furiously bids to get ARAF reinstated and minds turned to Rio have been further compounded by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory.

Rodchenkov described in detail an organised doping campaign including at least 15 medallists during the 2014 Sochi Games, with the close involvement of the sports ministry and the FSB security service.