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Stepanov on the run following controversial German doping documentary

Vitaliy Stepanov in the documentary 'Top Secret Doping: How Russia Makes its Winners' (Courtesy of Das Erste)

Vitaliy Stepanov in the documentary 'Top Secret Doping: How Russia Makes its Winners' (Courtesy of Das Erste)

Vitaliy Stepanov has left Russia and is on the run in Europe after revealing systematic doping and corruption in Russian sport.

A former RUSADA employee between 2008 and 2011, Vitaliy Stepanov is currently in hiding in Europe with his wife Yuliya and son Robert. Yuliya (nee Rusanova) is a Russian 800m runner currently serving a two-year ban for abnormalities in her biological passport. After appearing in a documentary for German television made by journalist Hajo Seppelt, Yuliya and her family have fled their home country in fear for their own safety.

Seppelt’s brilliant documentary ‘Top Secret Doping: How Russia Makes its Winners’ exposed Russian athletics and its anti-doping agency using video and audio evidence of athletes revealing that officials supplied banned substances in exchange for a cut of an athlete’s earnings.

Whistleblower Vitaliy Stepanov knew before he helped Seppelt discover the ugly truths behind Russian athletic success that circumstances would be incredibly tough for him once the documentary was made and planned to leave the country before it first aired in Germany. The soft-spoken, youthful-faced 32-year old told the camera “We felt it would be safer to leave Russia, then see what the reaction was. The reaction proved that we did the right thing. Most Russian journalists don’t see that there might be positive effects for the next generation of Russian athletes. They just say we are liars and traitors and that we got paid and we are not good Russians.” Vitaliy is an inspirational man fighting for a clean sport, regardless of the consequences of coming out with the truth.

Accepting the harsh reality of abandonment from his own people he explained “Up to now there is one Russian person who has emailed us saying ‘Thank you for doing the right thing.’ Russian people don’t believe that somebody can be fighting for the rights of clean athletes without having a personal profit.”

At one point in the documentary Vitaliy talks during a beautiful scene with his family about hopes for his son to one day grow up and become a professional sportsman. He felt it important to tell his story so that his son could compete on a level playing field, in a clean sport. The scene portrayed Stepanov as an honest man with a love for sport, trying to do the right thing and reveal the truth about a corrupt body that had systematically administered banned substances and attempted to cover up tests.

Documentary-maker Seppelt has since said he is prepared to make a follow-up documentary after receiving a number of athletes coming forward with more evidence. Seppelt told Russian website Championat.com “We did not plan a sequel, however, people are sending us more and more evidence to back the claim there is systematic doping in Russian sport.”

The Russian Athletics Federation has claimed the allegations are 'lies', but WADA has since announced details of a three-person independent commission to investigate the serious doping allegations in January 2015. This commission will be chaired by former WADA president Richard Pound and will seek to establish if there have been any violations of the World Anti-Doping Code, including breaches of rules in WADA laboratories by their members. WADA has released a statement noting that if any sufficient evidence exists, there could be sanctions against both individual and organization under rules of the World Anti-Doping Code.

Watch Seppelt's documentary 'Top Secret Doping: How Russia Makes its Winners' below.


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