Russian whistleblowers who exposed doping scandals forced to move locations again

Russian whistleblowers Yulia and Vitaly Stepanov, who have been living in hiding after telling the world about Russia's systematic doping, have had to suddenly move locations again.

Yulia and Vitaly Stepanov were vilified back home after sounding the alarm to WADA

Yulia Stepanova, now living in hiding, is one of the Russian whistleblowers who first told the world about Russian doping. (Adrienne Arsenault/CBC)

Russian whistleblowers Yulia and Vitaly Stepanov, who have been living in hiding after telling the world about Russia's systematic doping, have had to suddenly move locations again.

They maintain that Yulia's email account was hacked, and a few hours later, her "Adams account" was also hacked. An Adams account is used by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) so athletes can enter their whereabouts to facilitate testing.

Whistleblower Vitaly Stepanov, seen here with his son Robert, is a former Russian anti-doping agency employee. (Adrienne Arsenault/CBC)

WADA confirmed in a statement on Sunday that Yulia Stepanova's account was hacked, but, upon further investigation, "no other athlete accounts on ADAMS have been accessed."

To the Stepanovs, it's a clear indication that someone is trying to find out where they live.

"It's completely devastating and heartbreaking to hear that the Stepanovs continue to be in danger and fear for their lives," said Beckie Scott, chair of WADA's Athlete Commission. "They have made an incredible contribution to clean sport, and what has happened to them is completely unacceptable and wrong.

"We need whistleblowers and informants more than ever in the anti-doping movement, but if this is the price they have to pay, it's little wonder so few come forward," she added.

The Stepanovs have been effectively on the run and living in fear for years. It was their hidden video and their hundreds of emails sent to WADA over the years that formed the basis of the world's understanding about Russian doping.

Doping whistleblower Yulia Stepanova, seen here at a competition in 2011, was not allowed to run the 800 metres at Rio. (Michael Dalder/Reuters)

By sounding the alarm, they were vilified in Russia, seen as traitors and isolated by even their own family members. They have managed to stay safe, sheltered and fed through the kindness of a few supporters.

In several exclusive interviews with CBC from their temporary home, they explained that for months their hope was that Yulia Stepanova would be allowed to compete here in Rio. Even though she had served a doping ban, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) had opened the door for her to compete at these Olympic Games, possibly under another flag, praising her bravery in coming forward.

The IAAF — which is the track world's governing body — wanted to send a signal to whistleblowers that coming forward would not necessarily end their careers. But the IOC firmly closed that door for Yulia Stepanova after ruling that no Russian with a doping background could take part.

Even though other athletes who have histories of doping infractions are at these Games, Stepanova has to watch from afar.

The track and field athlete's event is the 800 metres, which is supposed to be run on Wednesday. She, quite possibly, will still be seeking a safe place to live at that point. Life on the run — not the life of running for which she trained.


Adrienne Arsenault

Senior Correspondent

Emmy Award-winning journalist Adrienne Arsenault co-hosts The National. Her investigative work on security has seen her cross Canada and pursue stories across the globe. Since joining CBC in 1991, her postings have included Vancouver, Washington, Jerusalem and London.


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