Whistle­blower claims he fled Rus­sia after threats

New Straits Times - - Sport -

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.

ANDREY DMITRIEV

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