Branded a traitor, Russian sports whistleblower hides abroad
By Maria Tsvetkova and Karin Strohecker
MOSCOW/LONDON (Reuters) - The sportswoman who blew the whistle on doping in Russian athletics is in hiding abroad, pursued by a barrage of criticism from former colleagues and officials at home who accuse her of betraying her country.
Yulia Stepanova, an international runner who was herself suspended for doping offences, secretly recorded Russian coaches and athletes over almost two years describing how they used performance-enhancing drugs.
The 29-year-old's evidence formed a major part of an investigation that led to Russian athletes being suspended from international competition this month, triggering the deepest crisis in Russian sport since the boycott-hit 1980 Moscow Olympics.
While her role has been described as courageous by supporters abroad, at home she has faced accusations of being a liar, and of betraying her countrymen for money or in exchange for a residence permit in a wealthy country.
"She's a traitor," said Vladimir Kazarin, Stepanova's former coach who was named as someone involved in doping in the investigation report, commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). He denies the allegations.
"She betrayed me, betrayed her homeland. That's why she's a traitor," Kazarin told Russia's NTV broadcaster.
Before her accusations were made public last year, Stepanova and her husband - who have a child of pre-school age - left Russia and moved to Germany where they set up home but kept a low profile.
Christoph Kopp, the head of the local athletics club who helped them settle in Germany, said they kept their details out of public records so they could not be traced, and wrote the family name "Mueller" - one of Germany's most common names - on the doorbell of their home. Continued...