WADA says it did not drag its feet on Russian whistleblowers

Fri Jun 3, 2016 7:16pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - The whistleblowers who sparked an investigation that found widespread doping in Russia received financial assistance, said the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Friday, while hitting back at criticism it waited years to react on evidence.

Vitaly Stepanov, a former-Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) official and his wife Yulia Stepanova, an 800-meter runner who was herself caught doping, have been in hiding in the United States since providing key information for a German TV documentary which made claims of rampant doping in Russian athletics.

WADA would not say what kind of compensation or how much was provided to the Russian couple, who are believed to be awaiting permits that will allow them to work in the U.S.

The program on German network ARD that sent the Stepanovs into hiding prompted an independent commission led by former-WADA president Dick Pound that led to Russia being banned from all athletics competition.

Ever since the revelations late last year WADA has been stung by criticism that it dragged its feet for years before telling Stepanov to take his evidence to reporters.

Olivier Niggli, who will take over as WADA director general later this month, forcefully hit back at that criticism on Friday explaining the top priority was to protect the Stepanovs, who were in fear for their lives and that the anti-doping agency was being prudent rather than slow.

Stepanov had said that starting in 2010 he had sent hundreds of emails to WADA detailing doping in Russia and had nearly given up hope.

Last month Stepanov told Reuters he second-guessed himself countless times during a three-year stretch where information he fed to WADA did not lead to action.   Continued...

A woman walks into the head office for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on November 9, 2015.  REUTERS/Christinne Muschi/File Photo