No re­grets on ex­pos­ing dop­ing: Whistle­blow­ers

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

LON­DON: The hus­band and wife who blew the whis­tle on dop­ing in Rus­sian ath­let­ics say they have no re­grets about speak­ing up and ex­pos­ing cheats de­spite be­ing ac­cused of be­tray­ing their own coun­try. Yu­lia Stepanova, an in­ter­na­tional run­ner who was her­self sus­pended for dop­ing of­fences, and her hus­band Vi­taly, a for­mer Rus­sian an­ti­dop­ing agency of­fi­cial, se­cretly recorded Rus­sian coaches and ath­letes over al­most two years de­scrib­ing how they used per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs.

Their ev­i­dence formed a ma­jor part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that led to Rus­sian ath­letes be­ing sus­pended from in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion this month, but came at a high per­sonal cost. Both have been heav­ily crit­i­cised in their home­land and have spent the past year liv­ing abroad but say the sac­ri­fice was worth it. “In the sense that I be­lieved in some­thing that I thought was right, and I tried,” Vi­taly told the Sun­day Times news­pa­per in Bri­tain. “You can have fake val­ues, an­i­mal in­stincts or you can be more hu­man.

“Be­cause if this year has proved any­thing, it is that sports are run by the wrong peo­ple.” The Stepanovas first took on the role of whistle­blow­ers last year when they fea­tured as wit­nesses in a tele­vi­sion doc­u­men­tary that al­leged wide­spread cor­rup­tion and drug-tak­ing in Rus­sian ath­let­ics.

Com­pli­cated world

The pair had been in hid­ing since but agreed to be in­ter­viewed by the Sun­day Times. In the in­ter­view, the pair said their ac­tions had been vin­di­cated by the World Anti-Dop­ing Agency (WADA) In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sion’s (IC) re­port into al­le­ga­tions of wide­spread dop­ing in Rus­sian ath­let­ics. “I knew that I was right, I didn’t need the re­port to tell me that,” Vi­taly told the Sun­day Times. “It did make me feel that a naive per­son can make a dif­fer­ence in this com­pli­cated world. I was a spy with­out a cover, and ev­ery­one was look­ing at me as an id­iot, but I could still man­age to get this thing go­ing.

“I felt very alone but right now it seems the whole ath­let­ics world is discussing what I have been talk­ing about for the past five years. I keep think­ing about this. This hap­pened to me. This hap­pened to Yuliya. This is our life. This is our story. A true story. I’ve told it as it is. Peo­ple should know the true story.” Vi­taly said he be­lieved Rus­sia should be banned from com­pet­ing at next year’s Rio Olympics be­cause of its dop­ing record but doubted that would ever hap­pen. “Sports of­fi­cials and politi­cians in Rus­sia did a lot worse than what ath­letes were do­ing, so I think fair pun­ish­ment for Rus­sian Ath­let­ics would be four years. Learn from your mis­take, change and come back in four years. See you in Tokyo,” he said. “(But) I es­ti­mate there is a one per cent chance of Rus­sia not be­ing at the Olympics. For this to hap­pen, the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee would have to change and that’s not go­ing to hap­pen in the next six months.” — Reuters

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