Doping cheat turned whistle-blower Yuliya Stepanova could compete as an independent athlete at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games following a decision of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ruling Council here today.
She could be one of only “three or four” Russian athletes who is permitted to participate in Rio. They will look favorably on any athlete who has made an “extraordinary contribution” to the fight against doping, IAAF Task Force chair Rune Andersen announced.
Stepanova, nee Rusanova, an 800 metres runner boasting a best time of 1min 56.99sec, was banned for two-years in 2013 following abnormalities in her biological passport. She was stripped of all results set since March 2011, including a silver medal won at the 2011 European Indoor Championships in Paris.
Along with her husband Vitaly, a former official in the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, the 29-year-old then colluded with German journalist Hajo Seppolt in secretly taping athletes and coaches discussing doping in Russian athletics. This formed the basis for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Independent Commission investigation which found evidence of a systemic and state-sponsored programme, leading directly to today’s decision to maintain a Russian ban subsequently imposed by the IAAF.
“What she has done is a game changer,” said Andersen
“She has contributed to clean sport.
“She has contributed to revealing something that has been going on in Russia for many years, and in the Soviet Union.
“We are totally dependent on people coming forward and informing us what is going on.
“We have tests that are reliable in informing us of positive tests, but the negative tests might be positive because athletes are fooling tests because athletes are doping at the right moments so you cannot find doping.”
When asked by the state-run TASS news agency, if it was fair for a convicted doping cheat to compete rather than “clean” Russian athletes, Andersen replied: “‘Clean’ athletes who have not tested positive, you mean?”
He added: “You might think its strange, but you should remember that the system in Russia has created this problem.
“That is important to bear in mind when you consider whether athletes are clean or not, the system cannot be trusted, and that’s the main thing.”
Stepanova, like all others, will now be able to apply to the IAAF to prove that she has been operating under a “strong anti-doping system”.
The IAAF Council ruled that, “If there are individual athletes who can clearly and convincingly show that they are not tainted by the Russian system because they have been outside the country, and subject to other, strong anti-doping systems, including effective drug testing, then there should be a process through which they can apply for permission to compete in International Competitions, not for Russia but as a neutral athlete.”
Stepanova, who is now based in the United States, would be one with a strong chance of fulfilling this criteria.
Approval would presumably have to be given by the IOC if she is to compete at Rio 2016, however, with discussion expected at an “Olympic Stakeholders Summit” in Lausanne on Tuesday (June 21).
It is not yet clear which other Russians are currently based outside the country, so could feasibly be able to compete.
Pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, 110 metres hurdles world champion Sergey Shubenkov and high jump world champion Maria Kuchina are all thought to be based in Russia.
By Nick Butler
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz