The New York Times offers a profile of a family that had to flee their Russian homeland — to an American city “they would rather not name’ — after blowing the whistle on athletic doping.
“We are just like any middle-class American family,” Vitaly Stepanov said of life with his wife, Yuliya, and their kindergartner son, Robert. “Well, except for the whistle-blower part.”
Oh, yes. That. The Stepanovs, in truth, are not a typical family at all: Yuliya, 33, once was a top middle-distance runner on Russia’s national team. Vitaly, 37, worked for the Russian Anti-Doping Agency.
Earlier this month, an international anti-doping panel barred Russia from competition for four years, a period that includes the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“As whistle-blowers, we never imagined things going this far, and it’s surreal that the cheats won’t be welcomed at the Olympic Games,” Vitaly said. “Finally, after so many half-measures, something real is being done to Russia as a punishment.”
The Times reports that they have been labeled as traitors in Russia, where president, Vladimir Putin, has called Yuliya “Judas.”They want to stay in the U.S. and have applied for asylum.
As for those back in Russia who have verbally attacked her and her husband, Yuliya was straightforward in her response. “They hate us for telling the truth,’’ she said. “I’ve seen comments on the internet like, ‘We should kill those traitors, we should go poison them.’ But we feel safe here. We want to stay here.’’’
In the meantime, Time magazine reports that Russia plans to appeal the recent ruling and has charged it’s former anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov with tampering with a lab database. Rodchenkov has also fled the country and is now working with the World Anti-Doping Agency.
With Russia planning a legal challenge to WADA’s sporting sanctions, the next step for Rodchenkov could be testifying at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the spring. His lawyer said he’s ready.
“If WADA or any other agency needs Grigory to testify, Grigory will uphold his promise to cooperate fully to help atone for his role,” Walden said.