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IAAF offers whistleblower Stepanova Olympic chance

Yulia Stepanova.PHOTO/courtesy.

Yulia Stepanova.PHOTO/courtesy.

VIENNA, Austria, June 17 – The IAAF on Friday offered once-banned Russian doping whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova a chance to compete at the Rio Olympics.

The IAAF Council ruled that “any individual athlete who has made an extraordinary contribution to the fight against doping in sport should also be able to apply for such permission” to compete in international competition.

“In particular, Yuliya Stepanova’s case should be considered favourably.”

IAAF president Sebastian Coe added: “The council was unanimous in accepting the recommendations and sending a very clear signal to athletes and the public about our intention to reform our sport.

“I am proud also that the Council accepted the recommendation to refer Yuliya Stepanova’s application to an appropriate panel under this amended rule as soon as possible.

“With the assistance of the Taskforce we will continue to work with RusAF on the reinstatement of Russian athletes as soon as possible.”

Stepanova, a 29-year-old runner who specialises in the 800 metres, received a two-year ban from the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) in 2013 after abnormalities showed up in her biological passport.

In 2014, she and her husband Vitaly Stepanov, who had worked at the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), appeared in a German television documentary, claiming widespread doping fraud in the Russian sports system.

The Stepanovs alleged that officials within the now-disgraced Russian athletics federation supplied banned substances in exchange for 5% of an athlete’s earnings. Officials, they said, also worked closely with anti-doping officers to falsify or keep quiet tests.

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Stepanova added that it was also common for Russian athletes training outside of Russia to avoid out-of-competition testing by using false names.

Following the startling revelations, which have since plunged the IAAF into its worst-ever crisis, Stepanova left Russia for Germany with her husband and then eight-month-old son. They have since settled in the United States.

Russia, however, has turned on the Stepanovs, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko dubbing Vitaly Stepanov a “swindler” and warning that Yuliya’s possible Olympic inclusion “should not be some kind of reward and become standard”.

“It’s one thing if she was denouncing everybody before she was suspended, before she got caught for doping, but it’s another thing when she says all this once she has been caught. So it turns out that we are rewarding her?” Mutko asked.

“Stepanova’s participation in the Olympics without a selection, without qualifying is prejudicial to healthy, clean athletes who have had a healthy, honest lifestyle their whole lives. It’s apparently easier to go to the Olympics by doping, getting suspended and insulting someone, telling on someone.”

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