“60 Minutes” Features Whistleblowers Who Exposed Corruption In Russian Athletics


“60 Minutes” Features Whistleblowers Who Exposed Corruption In Russian Athletics

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Don’t be surprised if Russian athletic officials are upset with CBS tomorrow morning.

Earlier today, “60 Minutes” featured an interview with Vitaly Stepanov, a former employee at the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) who claims that several of Russia’s 2014 Gold Medal winners were doping during the Sochi Olympics.

The episode, titled “Russia’s Dark Secret” (originally aired on May 8, 2016), tells the story of Vitaly and his wife Yuliya Stepanov, a former Russian athlete. In the show, correspondent Armen Keteyian described them as the “unlikely couple who provided the proof that took down their country’s state-sponsored system of doping”.

Over the course of an hour, CBS News wove a complex narrative:

“Yuliya Stepanov was one of Russia’s elite runners, fueled by steroids. Vitaly Stepanov had a low-level job collecting urine and blood samples inside the very agency assigned to combat drug use in sport. Together, they exposed the dark secrets of their country’s doping program…  now live in this sparse one-bedroom apartment somewhere in the United States, which we will not reveal for their protection.

…Vitaly says he repeatedly informed his bosses about the corruption, only to be told “What happens in Russia, stays in Russia.” Frustrated, he made a dangerous decision to reach outside Russia, to the World Anti-Doping Agency or WADA… The outrage sparked by what the Stepanovs uncovered finally forced WADA to launch an investigation. Its 300-plus page report detailed what WADA called, quote a “deeply rooted culture of cheating” that reached the highest levels of the Russian government.”

If this sound familiar, it’s because their story is not new; in fact, German broadcaster ARD had their own hour-long interview with the couple almost two years ago. You can read VICE Sports coverage of the original documentary on their website.
While the story began to unfold in 2014, it would almost take another year until the full impact of their actions was known. The Stepanovs claims lead to the resignation of Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory, and the country’s eventual suspension from international track and field competition. The claims also forced the couple to flee the country with their young child.
While they’ve had a tremendous effect on the world of sport, many of the Vitaly’s claims have not been proven and one notable skeptic including Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.
Mutko has been quite outspoken about the whole affair, claiming repeatedly that “Russia is Being Unfairly Targeted in Anti-Doping Investigations“. In an interview with Russia’s TASS news agency, he condemned Stepanov’s testimony by saying: “All his so-called revelations are based on speculation. It is obvious that someone wants to harm Russian sport. What facts does he have, what lists, why has he decided to come out with the latest claims now?”
After the ARD interview came out at least two lawsuits were filed against the program’s producer for defamation of character, but each was thrown out by the Russian courts.  Whether it’s true or now, each time the story is told, it gains a little bit of legitimacy. After years of struggle, it feels as though the world is finally listening to Vitaly’s story.
“I felt very alone but right now it seems the whole athletics world is discussing what I have been talking about for the past five years,” Vitaly told The Sunday Times in November of 2015. “I keep thinking about this. This happened to me. This happened to Yuliya… This is our story. A true story. I’ve told it as it is. People should know the true story.”