Yuliya Stepanova, the whistleblower pivotal to the discovery of deep-rooted state-sponsored doping in Russia, has hit out angrily at the International Olympic Committee in the wake of its decision to ban her from competing in Rio.
Stepanova, an 800m runner, and her husband Vitaly, a former anti-doping official in Russia, have been widely praised for their bravery in speaking out. They originally approached the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2010 but were told it had no investigative powers. Eventually they took their story to investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt, whose explosive 2014 documentary set in motion the chain of events that led to Richard McLaren’s report into Russia’s state-sponsored doping programme.
On Monday the Stepanovs appealed against the IOC decision and angrily claimed the IOC banned her on false premises.
Although the IAAF decided not to lift the ban on Russian athletes before the 2016 Summer Olympics, “three or four” Russian athletes may be permitted to appear as independent competitors. Its taskforce recommended that Stepanova be allowed to compete due to her “truly exceptional contribution to the fight against doping in sport” including “great personal risks”. On 1 July 2016, the IAAF approved her application to compete as a neutral athlete. Five days later, she competed at the European Championships but finished last in her heat with a torn ligament in her foot. In an unexpected turn of events the IOC on July 24 decided to ban Stepanova from competing in the 2016 Olympic games due to her drug infraction in 2013.