Russian informants on the run in the US
THE two whistleblowers who helped expose Russia’s systematic athletic doping program are believed to be on the run again, reportedly looking for new safe haven in the United States after their whereabouts were compromised earlier this week. On August 15, just a day after Yulia Stepanova said her email account with the World-Anti Doping Agency (WADA) had been hacked, she and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, spoke with reporters and detailed the gravity of their situation. In it, Stepanova seemed to imply they feared for their safety, saying, “If something happens to us, all of you should know, it’s not an accident.”
Speaking from an undisclosed location within the US, the Stepanovs’ comments are the first since WADA confirmed on August 14 that Yulia Stepanova’s account within the organisation had been broken into. According to ESPN’S Bonnie Ford, several international media outlets received an unsigned email on August 13 “from a private Switzerlandbased group that has been supporting Stepanova and her husband Vitaly Stepanov with a fundraising effort also endorsed by several past and current prominent Olympic athletes”, which detailed the hack and added another twist in a scandal that began more than two year ago when the couple exposed the innerworkings of Russia’s doping system.
Yulia Stepanova, a former Russian track star who was suspended in 2013, and Vitaly Stepanov, who worked for the now-discredited Russian Anti-Doping Agency, fled Russia with their young son in 2014 and eventually settled in the United States in 2015 after becoming informants for WADA.
On August 15, Ford posted several tweets detailing new comments from the couple, which included speculation that WADA’s current guidelines aren’t prepared to handle this magnitude of doping and that the whistle should’ve been blown earlier.
The 30-year-old Yulia Stepanova had been planing to compete in Rio as a neutral athlete, but the International Olympic Committee denied her request in August and she declined to appeal. – The Washington Post