Russian doping whistleblower given Olympics hope

Fri Jun 17, 2016 11:25pm EDT
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By Mark Trevelyan

VIENNA (Reuters) - Yulia Stepanova, the Russian former drugs cheat whose whistle blowing revelations helped expose the massive doping problem in her country, could be allowed to compete in the Rio Olympics as an independent athlete, the IAAF said on Friday.

Stepanova, an 800 meters runner described as "a courageous athlete" by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), went into hiding after revealing the details of the problem, and now lives in the United States at a secret location.

With the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) extending its ban on Russian athletes on Friday, and with her mother country highly unlikely to have selected her anyway, Stepanova was hoping to compete under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The IAAF had previously said the issue was a complicated legal and logistical one, but said on Friday the IAAF Council had changed its rules to clear the way.

"Any individual athlete who has made an extraordinary contribution to anti doping - in particular we include Yulia Stepanova here - should be considered favorably," Rune Andersen, head of the IAAF's task force investigating Russian doping, told a news conference.

"I cannot say she will compete in Rio but the Council said they will look favorably."

The words came as something of a surprise to Stepanova and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, who were watching a live stream of the news conference.

"As of this morning we did not know if she would have a chance or not," Stepanov told Reuters in a telephone interview. "We were prepared to hear a negative answer.   Continued...

A man casts his shadow following a press conference by Sebastian Coe, IAAF's President, as part of the 203nd International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) council meeting in Monaco, March 11, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo