A brief description
“They have given hope to honest athletes all around the world.”
– Frank Shorter
Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov are the world’s most renowned anti-doping whistleblowers. At great personal sacrifice and risk, the Stepanovs exposed widespread doping in athletics in their home country of Russia. They have since fled Russia for the United States, with their two year old son Robert, where they are living most modestly. They dream of a brighter, more secure future for their family that includes Yuliya competing internationally as a clean athlete; furthering their educations; securing fulfilling employment; ensuring opportunity for their son; and, of course, being able to contribute to their adoptive country.
The whole story
Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov’s journey has not been easy. They first met at a Russian National Athletics Championships where Yuliya was competing; and, Vitaly was working for the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA). As a Doping Control Officer and Education Manager, he believed in fair competition and in doing the right thing.
As a world class Russian athlete, Yuliya was part of a system in her country that encouraged athletes to dope as the only way to win medals in international competition. With the dream of becoming an elite athlete, Yuliya believed that taking performance enhancing drugs was the only way to fulfil her dreams.
Despite their different perspectives, within three months of their first encounter, they married. She was 23 and he was 27.
During their courtship, Yuliya told Vitaly everything she knew regarding doping. In turn, Vitaly tried desperately to convince Yuliya that she could succeed by competing clean. For his part, he also began uncovering wrongdoings within RUSADA and contacted WADA; which, eventually led to him being let go due to ‘re-structuring’ within the organization. Given these pressures, their young marriage began to fall apart and divorce seemed imminent. It was at this stage that Yuliya’s blood values showed abnormalities, which indicated the use of prohibited substances. Even though she never tested positive for a prohibited substance, she knew that she was using performance enhancing drugs. She accepted a two-year ban as a fair punishment.
All being considered, Vitaly finally succeeded in convincing Yuliya that the system, which she had been a part of for many years, was not as it should be. He then encouraged her to take steps to help expose the wrongdoings of many. And so, over a period of two years, and at great personal sacrifice and risk, Yuliya secretly recorded high-profile Russian coaches, officials and athletes discussing the use of prohibited substances.
Together, Yuliya and Vitaly provided all the information that they had collected, without incentive, on to journalist Hajo Seppelt of German ARD TV. The revelations, which were first aired by ARD TV in December 2014, led to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Independent Commission. The Commission, which released its first Report in November 2015, confirmed the allegations of widespread doping in Russian athletics.
All the information was provided by the Stepanovs without any financial or personal motivation. They did it in the interest of clean sport with the firm belief that they were doing the right thing; and, in the end…it also saved their marriage.
“The whistleblowers who exposed Russia’s doping system in track and field tell their story to our Adrienne Arsenault.”
The Stepanovs today and tomorrow
These days, Yuliya and Vitaly are busy raising their young son in a new country with each day presenting new challenges and opportunities. Sadly, they feel ostracized from many family and friends in Russia that don’t believe in their story and question their intentions. Vitaly is fluent in English and Yuliya is learning the language at the local high school while still focussing on her dream to compete internationally as a clean athlete. They are both humbled and appreciative of the occasional private donations that they receive; and, look forward to having work permits and to being able to work and support themselves fully. If they receive the necessary funds, both Vitaly and Yuliya will study at a U.S. College. They look forward to the day when they can choose a field of study and receive an education to prepare for their future.
Security and independence is always on their minds
Through this www.ibelieveinyou.ch crowdsource funding initiative, we invite you to help us ensure a brighter future for the Stepanovs. They are working very hard to build a safe, independent and dignified life for themselves in a new country. Please join us in thanking them for the sacrifices they’ve made in the name of clean sport and integrity. They are heroes and, we believe, they deserve to be treated as such.