IOC of­fer­ing as­sis­tance to Rus­sian whistle­blow­ers

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

LON­DON: The Rus­sian hus­band and wife team who felt be­trayed by the IOC af­ter blow­ing the whis­tle on state-spon­sored dop­ing in their home­land are now be­ing of­fered fi­nan­cial and other as­sis­tance by the Olympic body. The In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee said yes­ter­day that it was pro­vid­ing ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties to 800-me­ter run­ner Yu­lia Stepanova and her hus­band, Vi­taly Stepanov, a for­mer Rus­sian anti-dop­ing of­fi­cial. Stepanova is be­ing given fi­nan­cial sup­port, while her hus­band will work as a con­sul­tant for the IOC on dop­ing mat­ters, the com­mit­tee said in a state­ment to The As­so­ci­ated Press. The cou­ple have been liv­ing at an undis­closed lo­ca­tion in the United States since pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion to Ger­man broad­caster ARD and oth­ers that helped ex­pose sys­tem­atic cheat­ing in Rus­sia.

Their tes­ti­mony played a cen­tral role in the IAAF’s de­ci­sion to sus­pend Rus­sia’s track and field fed­er­a­tion from global com­pe­ti­tion and ex­clude all but one member of its team from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in Au­gust.

The IOC faced harsh crit­i­cism af­ter re­ject­ing calls to ban Rus­sia en­tirely from the games and turn­ing down Stepanova’s ap­pli­ca­tion to com­pete in Rio as an in­de­pen­dent ath­lete.

The cou­ple met with IOC Pres­i­dent Thomas Bach in Septem­ber to dis­cuss the com­mit­tee’s of­fer of “as­sis­tance in their ca­reers,” the IOC said in an email.

“Af­ter the cou­ple reached out to the IOC, Yuliya Stepanova is be­ing given fi­nan­cial and other as­sis­tance so that she can con­tinue her sports ca­reer and po­ten­tially join a na­tional Olympic com­mit­tee,” the IOC said.

It’s un­clear which na­tional Olympic body Stepanova could rep­re­sent, al­though the US would be a pos­si­bil­ity since the cou­ple have been liv­ing there. Her hus­band, mean­while, “will be pro­vid­ing a con­sul­tancy ser­vice to the IOC on all as­pects of dop­ing con­trol and the pro­tec­tion of clean ath­letes,” the state­ment said. Stepanova was part of the Rus­sian dop­ing sys­tem for years and served a two-year drug ban im­posed by the IAAF. Af­ter she and her hus­band turned whistle­blow­ers, the IAAF rec­om­mended that she be el­i­gi­ble to com­pete as a neu­tral ath­lete.

Stepanova did run as an in­de­pen­dent ath­lete at the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships in July, but fin­ished last in her 80-me­ter heat as she strug­gled with a foot in­jury.

The IOC re­jected her bid to run at the Olympics, cit­ing her past dop­ing case and say­ing she did not sat­isfy the “eth­i­cal re­quire­ments” to com­pete at the games. At the time, Vi­taly Stepanov la­beled the IOC’s of­fer to bring them to the Olympics to watch the games as VIP guests “a bribe.” Stepanova also crit­i­cized the IOC, say­ing, “They never tried to un­der­stand our sit­u­a­tion. They sim­ply say what­ever is go­ing to serve them.”

The cou­ple said re­cently they feared for their safety and had switched res­i­dences af­ter hack­ers breached a World Anti-Dop­ing Agency data­base that records Stepanova’s where­abouts.

Bach said in Rio that the IOC was “not responsible for dan­gers to which Mrs. Stepanova may be ex­posed.” —AP

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