Whistleblower claims he fled Russia after threats
BERLIN: A whistleblower says he fled Russia, in an interview broadcast on Saturday, because of threats following his claims that Russian athletics has failed to tackle a widespread culture of doping.
Russia has been in the spotlight over what the World AntiDoping Agency (WADA) calls state-sponsored doping across multiple sports over several years.
Andrey Dmitriev, a 1,500m runner, claimed in January that Russian athletics coaches, who face suspension over violations of international doping laws, continue to work with athletes, which he secretly filmed to prove.
However, in his latest interview, the 26-year-old told German broadcaster ARD that he fled to an undisclosed location after being threatened in Russia and branded a traitor for his revelations.
“When I realised what was heading my way, I knew I had better leave the country,” he said.
“For the moment, I feel safe. For me, there was no alternative, but to flee.
“Many saw my interview and the evidence that I provided in a negative sense.
“They called me a traitor, a liar, and — excuse my language — poured tonnes of s*** on me.
“Right after the interview, I was fired from both training centres in my home town where I was getting paid.
“I had believed that I would be able to change something at first, but when I saw the reaction of many Russians I realised that I had failed.
“Russians are not ready for the whistleblowing culture.”
Dmitriev’s decision to flee mirrors that of Yuliya Stepanova and her husband Vitaly — who fled to the United States over fears of reprisals — following their 2014 revelations of widespread doping in Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin referred to Yuliya as “Judas” but the Russian track and field team were barred from last year’s Rio Olympics and there was a total ban on Russians at the Paralympics.
Dmitriev says when he spoke out in January, it quickly became apparent he could not expect open support from those in Russian athletics.
“Immediately after my interview with ARD there was indeed a growing discussion in our country about doping in sports,” he said.
“But just for a very short time. “I wanted other athletes to stand up and speak up, I hoped to see the national team members speak up publicly.
“What people call ‘Russian Track and Field’ is a horror.
“I wanted the athletes to say that I was right, that I was not lying and that the old coaches need to be gone.
“I was expecting athletes and coaches to protect me, but they have been quiet even though many supported me in private messages.”
Dmitriev said the threats started in January and he feared being thrown in jail as questions were suddenly asked about his lack of national service.
“I never broke the law, but I didn’t report to the recruitment office for the army,” he said.
“The army wasn’t interested in me, they never searched for me or whatever.
“But suddenly they appeared, right after my interview with ARD. I am sure that this was not a coincidence.
“They came without advanced notice and tried to take away my passport, tackled me and threatened to put me in jail.
“Two of them held me like if I was a gangster.
“They made me sign a paper saying that I will report to the recruitment office on Feb 27. I had no choice.
“To go to jail would have been a purposeless heroism that nobody needs.” AFP
When I realised what was heading my way, I knew I had better leave the country. For the moment, I feel safe. For me, there was no alternative, but to flee.