The International Olympic Committee has announced it will provide career opportunities to 800-metre runner Yuliya Stepanova and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, a former Russian anti-doping official.
Yuliya, the whistleblower pivotal to the discovery of deep-rooted state-sponsored doping in Russia, and her husband were widely praised for their bravery in speaking out. The duo originally approached the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2010 but was told the anti-doping agency had no investigative powers.
The husband-wife duo blew the whistle on state-sponsored doping in their homeland. In a statement, the IOC remarked Stepanova is being given financial support and Vitaly will work as a consultant for the IOC on doping matters. The IOC said the couple met with IOC President Thomas Bach in September for discussing an offer by the IOC to provide assistance in their careers. The IOC said Yuliya Stepanova is being given financial and other assistance so that she can continue her sports career and potentially join a national Olympic committee. It is still not clear which national Olympic body Stepanova could represent although the United States would be a possibility since the couple have been living there. The IOC statement said Vitaly will be providing a consultancy service to the IOC on all aspects of doping control and the protection of clean athletes.
Yuliya was part of the Russian doping system for years and served a doping ban of two years by the IAAF. The world governing body for track and field recommended that she be eligible to compete as a neutral athlete after she and her husband turned whistleblowers. The IOC rejected Yuliya's bid to run at the Olympics and cited her past doping case and said she did not satisfy the "ethical requirements" to compete at the games. Vitaly at that time labeled offer of the IOC to bring them to the Olympics to watch the games as VIP guests "a bribe". Yuliya also then criticized the IOC and had remarked they never tried to understand our situation and had also said they simply say whatever is going to serve them.
She did run as an independent athlete at the European Championships in July, but finished last in her 80-meter heat as she struggled with a foot injury.
Yuliya Stepanova and her husband Vitaly Stepanov have been living at an undisclosed location in the United States ever since they offered information to German broadcaster ARD and others that helped expose systematic cheating in Russia. Their testimony played the all-important role in decision of the International Association of Athletics Federations, the world governing body for track and field, to suspend the track and field federation of Russia from global competition and exclude all but one member of its team from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.
The International Olympic Committee received harsh criticism after it rejected calls by the IAAF and the World Anti-Doping Agency to ban Russia entirely from the games and turning down the application of Yuliya to compete in Rio as an independent athlete.
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