LONDON: Russian drug cheats will be competing at next month’s Olympic Games despite efforts to eradicate them, say the whistleblowers who highlighted the country’s state-sponsored doping.
The International Olympic Committee has asked governing bodies to ban Russians either implicated in a recent report into doping, or previously sanctioned.
But, in an extensive interview with the BBC, former Russian Anti-Doping Agency official Vitaly Stepanov and his 800m runner wife Yulia agreed: “There will be athletes who have used doping from Russia in Rio.”
The pair were forced to flee Russia after their evidence put the country’s doping record under intense scrutiny but said they “feel safe” in their new home at a secret location.
Vitaly said: “Unfortunately the reaction to our actions in our home country is not positive.
“A lot of people in general and athletes as well hate us for what we did and we would not go back to Russia right now. There, we would feel unsafe.”
The Stepanovs gave evidence to German dpocumentary make Hajo Seppelt in 2014 that led to an independent report being commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency which found evidence of widespread doping.
That in turn led to another WADA-commissioned report – last week’s McLaren report – which detailed extensive attempts to cover up doping in Russia and implicated the Russian ministry of sport, secret service and anti-doping agency.
The IOC decided against a blanket ban on Russia. Instead, it tasked individual sports federations in deciding which athletes were eligible for Rio.
Vitaly said: “The IOC showed that first of all there is no punishment for running a systematic doping programme in the largest country in the world.
“Second, they protected not the majority of clean athletes globally but clean athletes in Russia.”
The Stepanovs also crioticised the IOC for banning Yulia from Rio.
Despite being cleared to compete under a neutral flag by the IAAF, the IOC ruled she should not be allowed to take part because she was sanctioned for doping in 2013.
The Stepanovs said this sent out the wrong signal to potential whistleblowers, with Vitaly saying: “You didn’t really have a choice if you wanted to be a member of the national team.
“She has served her ban, fully served her ban, she thinks that she should not be punished a second time for something that she did in the past.”