Russian doping whistleblower given Olympics hope
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[June 18, 2016]
By Mark Trevelyan
VIENNA (Reuters) - Yulia Stepanova,
the Russian former drugs cheat whose whistle blowing revelations
helped expose the massive doping problem in her country, could be
allowed to compete in the Rio Olympics as an independent athlete,
the IAAF said on Friday.
Stepanova, an 800 meters runner described as "a courageous
athlete" by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), went into hiding
after revealing the details of the problem, and now lives in the
United States at a secret location.
With the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)
extending its ban on Russian athletes on Friday, and with her mother
country highly unlikely to have selected her anyway, Stepanova was
hoping to compete under the flag of the International Olympic
The IAAF had previously said the issue was a complicated legal and
logistical one, but said on Friday the IAAF Council had changed its
rules to clear the way.
"Any individual athlete who has made an extraordinary contribution
to anti doping - in particular we include Yulia Stepanova here -
should be considered favorably," Rune Andersen, head of the IAAF's
task force investigating Russian doping, told a news conference.
"I cannot say she will compete in Rio but the Council said they will
The words came as something of a surprise to Stepanova and her
husband, Vitaly Stepanov, who were watching a live stream of the
"As of this morning we did not know if she would have a chance or
not," Stepanov told Reuters in a telephone interview. "We were
prepared to hear a negative answer.
"Now there is a chance."
It was now up to the IOC to decide on the issue, and that process
could take several weeks, he added.
"It is really a sad situation in Russian athletics and in general
international athletics," Stepanov said of the IAAF decision. "But
if that's what it takes to make changes in Russia and globally then
it should be done."
[to top of second column]
A man casts his shadow following a press conference by Sebastian
Coe, IAAF's President, as part of the 203nd International
Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) council meeting in
Monaco, March 11, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo
Evidence provided by Stepanov, a former Russian anti-doping agency
employee, and his wife formed part of an investigation that led to
Russian athletics being suspended from international competition.
Stepanov told Reuters that his wife thought the IAAF decision would
make her even more of a hate figure back home.
"She said: 'In Russian athletics I will be hated even more now,'" he
said, but added that the chance to compete again would be special
His wife must recover from lower back pain before she can train
again, something she hoped to do next week, added Stepanov.
The athlete, who has met the Olympic qualifying standard and has
regularly undergone drugs tests, has maintained her training regime
in the hope of being allowed in.
Last month she had told Reuters that it would be a dream come true
to be an Olympian.
"If the best place I can get is the last place, I would still be
happy," she said.
(Additional reporting by Mitch Phillips and Gene Cherry; Editing by
Mark Potter/Peter Rutherford)
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