© Copyright – 2015 – Athletics Illustrated
Athletics Illustrated has received from an unknown and anonymous source the original, raw and unedited version of the blockbuster interview that blew the story open about apparent systematic doping in Russia. See below.
The version that was published in Russia was “softer” on the Russian Ministry of Sports, because the Russian journalists were not ready to lose their jobs because of this interview. But still the Ministry really disapproved this interview and openly complained about it.
The original Russian interview is here:
Championat.com , journalist Evgeniy Slusarenko
Nationwide newspaper “Sovetskiy Sport”, journalist Natalia Maryanchik
Both Championat.com and “Sovetskiy Sport” published the interview in 2 parts on March 17th and March 18th.
«I hope the Minister of Sport will be fired.»
Vitaly Stepanov is former employee of RUSADA, one of the heroes of controversial German film about doping in Russian sport “Secret doping: How Russia prepares its champions”. For the first time gives a frank interview and answers to all sensitive questions.
– Vitaly Stepanov, let’s start from the beginning. How did you become an employee of RUSADA?
– At the end of 2007, I saw an ad in the newspaper that a company was hiring doping control officers. In early 2008, after the holidays, I called the number indicated, and it turned out to be Rossport (Ministry of Sport). During the interview, I was told that a national anti-doping organisation was being created, and everything had to be set up from scratch. They were looking for young and motivated people who loved sports and who were ready to build the new organisation’s activities in compliance with the WADA Code. Everything was very convincing, and I had no doubt that I was told the truth. After the interview, I received a phone call and was invited to start working on 1 February.
– What is your education? Are you a doctor? And why was this position interesting for you?
– I studied sports management, but did not graduate. I love athletics. I am a runner, but not on a professional level. I do not have a medical degree, but that is not required to be a doping control officer.
– What happened after you started working?
– I participated in several conferences with WADA representatives. I did the translation of some parts of the Code and of international standards. A few other people started working with me in February, but I was the only one who stayed until the end of April, when we got the first salary. Of course, there were doubts whether anything would come of this. But in the beginning, I felt that people really tried to do a good job.
– At what point did you realize that was not the case?
– There were many episodes, but I was no expert at first, and I just thought that, some things did not really seem correct. Once I went for a doping control of a baseball team, for example, and everyone who came for testing carried someone else’s passport. I refused to take samples and left. Or in athletics, I was offered money for not taking a sample, and the person, who was offering the money was the vice-president of the Federation!
– Tell us about this incident.
It happened at the 2008 Russian junior championships in Chelyabinsk. We went there with another doping control officer who had been working as a DCO for a very long time. In the women’s 400m, a local girl took second place, and of course, as a medal winner, she was selected for doping control. But instead of the girl, her coach showed up. He walked over to my colleague and said, let’s do it as before, let’s not take a sample. My colleague told him that was no longer possible. The coach then approached me, and I confirmed that we had to take her sample. Then, at the request of the coach, the ARAF vice-president Georgiy Necheuhin (who passed away a few years ago) came to the office. He started to offer money to me, and I refused to take it. Later in the evening I got a call from one of the chiefs of RUSADA asking me not to take the girl’s sample. The next day, the same girl was randomly selected for doping control again after the relay race, but this time, nobody talked to me. The issue was resolved without me.
There were many similar situations in many different sports. At first I was surprised, then, I gradually began to realize that I was not supported by anyone whenever I complained.
– Is it true that you were fired by the RUSADA?
– At the end of 2010, we were told that the RUSADA was being restructured. At that time, I was a senior manager at the education department. The organisation was a big mess at the time, no one knew what was going to happen, but in late February of 2011, I was notified that I was being fired. Prior to this notification, I had already received assignments and missions for March, and then suddenly, it was announced that the RUSADA did not need any specialists with my abilities.
– Would you have stayed if you had not been dismissed?
– Why, if there were so many episodes at RUSADA that were not compatible with your position?
– In those last six months, when I felt that people were trying to get rid of me, I stopped being shy. If I did not agree with something I just said so. I cannot say that I liked it, but such is life. You fight and you continue fighting …
– Why did you refuse to cooperate with RUSADA in their investigation regarding the German documentary film?
– I did not understand how an organisation could conduct an independent investigation of its own activities. How could Mr. Kamaev lead such an investigation, if some of the violations that were committed happened with his approval? I was sent a list of questions regarding the documentary from RUSADA investigators. They were all very superficial. I did not see any sincere desire to get to the bottom of things.
– Do we understand correctly that you think the RUSADA is controlled by the Ministry of Sport, and the Ministry, in your opinion, supports doping at the state level?
– And what would you like to see happen?
– I hope that one of the results of the investigation by WADA is that the Minister of Sport and the members of his doping ministry are fired. Mr. Mutko, probably, the only person in the world who does not see any connection between Mr. Chegin and more than 20 banned race walkers coached by Mr. Chegin. Mr. Mutko continues to support Mr. Chegin. In my opinion, Mutko and Chegin’s actions will kill race walking in the entire world in the end. Why Mr. Mutko is against doping becoming a criminal offence? Because the first people who should be punished would have to be Mr. Mutko and the people from the Ministry responsible for anti-doping policies in Russia.
«We were told, that the whole world did the same.»
– What did you do after you were fired by the RUSADA?
– At that time I was already married to Yuliya. She was competing on a decent level. At some point we decided that we would go to training camps together. I was her partner in training. Then, I was offered a job at the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, but decided to leave the job three months later.
– It seemed to me that there was too much paperwork, and there were too many things we tried to do our own way, without listening to foreign experts. There was a specialist from Canada, for example, who had been responsible for developing the doping controls at the Olympic Games in Vancouver. He was very polite in meetings. He shared his own experience and was interested to see what was being done here. The next day, my boss said: “Look, the Ministry of Sports complained that the expert was asking really uncomfortable questions about finances and other things.” I was not ready to work in such an environment.
– Let’s talk about your relationship with your wife. We suppose you knew from the beginning that she was doping?
– We met in 2009 at the Russian Athletics Championships in Cheboksary. As an employee of the RUSADA, I was coordinating an educational anti-doping programme called Outreach. Many athletes and coaches came, and answered questions, and then they received gifts. In three days we gave out 600 gifts! Everything was super, I was happy. The only one, who did not come to our educational booth, was head coach Mr. Maslakov. We asked him many times, but he did not want to come.
– Was not it unlikely that your future wife would confess to anything while participating in the Outreach programme?
Everyone was saying that nobody took any prohibited substances, and I happily believed that. A few weeks later, Yuliya and I were on our first date. I am not too smart, she is not too smart, so we immediately began to speak the truth to each other. I felt like an idiot after that conversation. No, of course, I realized that something was happening. But to this extent? But in fact, Yuliya was not a member of the national team yet, and she did not know everything. For example, that you could compete “dirty” at Russian Championships. It was later, in 2011 and 2012, when she found out how things worked: Do as we say, and you do not have to worry about doping control at Russian Championships.
– What did she tell you on your first date?
– That almost everyone was doping, perhaps, except Yuriy Borzakovskiy. That doping in Russia is not even looked as a violation. It is not possible to run in international competitions without doping. Most coaches do not even understand that they are doing something wrong and they transfer this “understanding” to athletes of any age.
At this point, Stepanov’s phone rings, his wife talks about her competition in France. (She finished the 800m race third in 2:02.68).
– Is your wife running “clean” now?
– Of course, she is. This is a good result, especially considering the level of training she had. Yuliya will run, come home, look after our son, and then go to the second work out. No special recovery procedures. She was surprised herself that she can run this time.
– Let’s go back. Why did you, someone who is against doping, not convince your future wife to stop?
– After the things Yuliya told me, I realized that nobody really wanted someone with my views in Russia. To some extent we were convinced by the officials that the entire world did the same, and that if you listened to the Russian athletics officials, you would never be in trouble. Simply put, according to them, that was just the way athletics worked, and there was no alternative.
– So, can we say that you gave up because of love?
– I would not say that I completely gave up. I just did not even know where to go for support or how to change the situation. WADA was the only organization in which I had not lost trust, based on personal communication while working at the RUSADA and during the Olympic Games in Beijing and Vancouver. My communication with WADA actually went on for a long time. The first time I wrote to them was back in 2010. Sometimes I would read the Code, and then I was told how things really were, and my head was ready to explode. Everything was upside down! Communicating with WADA over the years kept my hopes alive. I wrote to them, shared my thoughts – and I felt better.
«Only the stamp in the passports kept us together.»
– How did WADA react to your letters?
– I hope that WADA has used and will use the information provided by me in order to protect the rights of “clean” athletes in Russia and in the world. I often thought that even people at WADA could not believe what was happening in Russia, and that they did not know how to change things either. I hope the fact that the 2015 Code is tougher and gives more rights to WADA in terms of investigations in different parts of the world will have a positive impact, especially for those athletes who do not use doping. During the meetings, they thanked me, but they always stressed that the main thing was our safety.
– The things you wrote WADA must have affected your wife’s career.
– Representatives of WADA, with whom I spoke, emphasized that the main goal was to change the entire system, and to eradicate the culture of doping in Russia.
– We assume Yuliya’s disqualification was a major shock for you?
– Life goes on, planning is often impossible. This is a hard question. My relationship with Yuliya was not always easy. We had our difficult times and misunderstandings. There were some topics we tried not to discuss at all. At times only the stamp in our passports kept us together. However, the disqualification actually brought us closer as a family. There were no more double standards. We were on one side. And Russian athletics officials told Yuliya: “Sign the necessary papers, and we will keep paying you. And also, if you get pregnant, that is fabulous…”
– When you participated in this documentary, you probably understood that it would become difficult for Yuliya to be in the Russian national team. Did you think about escape routes, or about how she could be able to continue her sports career?
– We have this saying: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” We do not have a plan, we just live. I believe that this is not the limit, Yuliya can run even faster. If I have to write letters to WADA asking to test athletes at the championships in Moscow and at other regional competitions, or if I have to check in person that regional competitions have doping controls, I will do it. And if there is not doping control, I know one journalist who might be interested in a new story.
– So, do you suspect that in the qualifying (regional) competitions supposedly “clean” athletes compete with the aid of doping substances?
– In Russia, at least until the winter of 2015, many athletes doped at regional competitions because there is no doping control.
– What about the Russian Championships?
– There are doping controls, and I hope, that cover-ups are no longer possible.
– Why did Yuliya not compete at the Russian Championships to try to qualify for the European Championships in Prague?
– I think in our situation that would have been somewhat dangerous.
– Are you thinking about changing her sports citizenship?
– Thoughts about citizenship come when a person shows the result. While there is no result, we do not discuss such issues.
«There are many ways to tamper, pour out, cover up. »
– How did you solve the moral dilemma of whether or not to videotape things?
– How else could we attract attention? If you just tell the story of how something happened, no one will listen, right? You have to have proof. And morality? We are talking about professional crimes here, about doping. We did not think that we were doing something wrong. And in fact we did not know how things would turn out. For example, Yuliya went to talk to Mr. Portugalov, and five minutes later, Mr. Melnikov joined them. Yuliya did not plan to meet him, it just happened by chance.
– Did you do the videotapes for the documentary or did you already have them?
– The videotapes were made to capture the truth. We told our story and showed evidence to support it. I asked Hajo Seppelt to show the part of my interview, in which I say that I hope that our son and his generation will be able to achieve high results in an honest way. I did not ask for anything else in terms of the film’s plot.
– The RUSADA is preparing to go to court, arguing that all your tapes are fake. Will you be able to confirm the accuracy of all your statements?
– WADA received the originals of all audio and video recordings from us. We have nothing to hide, but as far as I know, there is now a big investigation of the situation in Russia, and I want to give investigators a chance to do their job. Therefore, I will not disclose too much information. But if there is someone we trust, we would consider showing the material to that person. Honestly, there cannot be two opinions. The reaction in Russia to the tapes had to be expected. What else could they say or do? Admit to things, resign, give back medals and awards?
– In the film by Hajo Seppelt there are a few obvious weaknesses. For example, Seppelt is complaining that money was requested from your wife to conduct a reinstatement doping control test. But IAAF rules say that an athlete must pay for such a test.
– When I showed the document to Hajo Seppelt, the emphasis was on something else. RUSADA asked Yuliya to come to the RUSADA offices and provide a sample. But it is actually the DCO who should show up at the athlete’s door without advance notice to take the sample. When I worked at the RUSADA, we had a joke: What is a no advance-notice doping control in Russia? That is when an athlete arrives at the RUSADA office, and there is no DCO present to take the sample.
– In the documentary Yuliya told about a jar of urine, which was kept in the freezer. How do you go about swapping samples technically?
– When you are surrounded by corruption, you can do almost anything you want. And no matter what Mr. Kamaev or others say, according to the documents, all is crystal clear, but in fact it is quite different. You can see it in the documentary: While the DCO was sitting in the room, Yuliya went to the bathroom alone and came back with a sample. And we specifically recorded that in the bathroom, there were empty jars and bottles. There is another possibility: You could pour out the content of the bottle and replace it with clean urine at the lab.
– How does the RUSADA manage to hide problematic samples of famous athletes, if the bottles are coded, and when laboratories should not know whose samples they are analysing?
– When I was working at the RUSADA, it was done like this: A phone call to the RUSADA was made by the laboratory or the Ministry of Sports asking for the names of the athletes on the basis of the sample numbers. Sometimes, a coach was calling the laboratory citing the sample number and letting them know that the sample was dirty. There are so many ways to tamper, pour out, cover up … The main goal of the RUSADA was always to please the Ministry of Sport so that funds would keep flowing.
– But isn’t the RUSADA supposed to be independent from the Ministry of Sport?
How can it be independent, if it is financed by the Ministry of Sports? Usually, the RUSADA does not complain about any instructions coming from the Ministry, because otherwise, the financing of this independent organization could stop at any time.
– Did you ever have the impression that maybe the author of the documentary, journalist Hajo Seppelt, was not entirely independent himself, and that in fact, the creation of this documentary could have been initiated from above?
– I believe that Hajo Seppelt is the best journalist in the world specializing in the area of fighting doping. He told me that the only way to change things was to attract public attention. Nothing will ever change if we remain silent. And the true task of a journalist is to tell people the truth and not to follow the policy of any government or and of its departments. I never thought that Mr. Seppelt was being manipulated by someone. His investigation of systematic doping in the GDR was not supported by many people in Germany, but that did not stop him. We talked a lot, and I believed him. He even had conflicts with WADA, because he writes and says only what he thinks is necessary.
«Victories can make you lose touch with reality.»
– Let’s talk about Olympic champion Mariya Savinova who appears to confess to using doping in the recording. How did you feel after the conversation was recorded?
– Frankly, this cost me a lot of sleep. Both Yuliya and I think that Mariya is a great person, even though we know that she and her husband Alexey will not appreciate our intentions. The reality is that Mariya is a hostage of the system, just like Yuliya was. She was just more successful in terms of medals. The entire film was done to show that athletics is controlled by what I would call a mafia. And there are no easy ways to battle this. Any method will be hard and painful. I understand that for Mariya Savinova, on one hand there is her conscience, and on the other – a lot of money, reputation, and fame. And unfortunately, I can see which aspects will outweigh the others. Mariya could become a symbol of change in our sport, but she prefers to take the path of least resistance …
– Did your wife decide to join the group of coach Kazarin, who is also coaching Mariya Savinova, because you were planning to get evidence against him?
– Yuliya joined Kazarin’s group right after the London Olympics. At that time she was not banned. Yuliya got injured before London and wanted to make changes. Mr. Melnikov and Mr. Portugalov were telling Mr. Kazarin not to take my wife, because they already knew that she was having blood passport value problems. Also they really did not like the idea that I was always near her. And maybe, Kazarin became somewhat greedy. The same is being said about Mr. Chegin. At some point , victories can make you lose touch with reality. You start to think that you can do anything. Yuliya’s ban was not over, and yet, there was Kazarin, offering her steroids.
– Perhaps one of the key questions is why you and your wife started talking about doping only after her ban was announced. Why didn’t you leave this path of least resistance earlier, you say Savinova and others take?
– Yuliya and I began to talk about doping problems before her ban was announced. For some sports officials in Russia, it is beneficial to provide the media with distorted information, in order to belittle those who are accusing them and to cast themselves in a more positive light. All these years, Yuliya was constantly fighting within herself. It is really hard to go against something you have been led to believe was done by everyone else, as well. Something you were told was part of the informal rules and there is no other possible way. She was told that to compete on international level, she must do exactly as Russian athletics officials said. But I think we should appreciate any situation in life that leads you to change your mindset for the better.
– Are you sure that these people are wrong? Maybe not only Russians prepare with doping for international competitions?
– I cannot know about the rest of the world, but I’m sure of one thing. Even if the first 20 people run with the help of doping substances, and the 21st person is “clean”, this 21st athlete still deserves to be the winner, and the other 20 must be disqualified. It does not matter if the Olympic champion in the 800 meters runs 1:55 or 2:05. We watch the competition and the battle and do not simply count seconds. If there are official competition rules, you have to follow them. And if Russian officials do not agree with some of WADA’s policies, they can say so at conferences, propose new initiatives, and defend their point of view. Then the official rules might begin to change! But if you sign the Code and tell the whole country that you comply with its anti-doping rules, you are required to abide by this Code with no exceptions.
– You have not worked at the RUSADA for four years. Could it be, that things have changed somewhat? Maybe, systematic doping is in fact no longer possible in Russian athletics?
– We had hoped that maybe things will change gradually. But unfortunately, I suspect that is not the case. People still follow the logic of lying more when pressed harder. Yuliya was notified a few times, that because no one has explained to the Russian Athletics Federation how new steroid profile will be looked at, there is a big chance that many athletes will be banned for abnormal steroid values in the future. But Russian Athletics Federation does not really care about this, the main goal is to comply with the medal plan for the Olympics or World Championships and deserve a handshake from Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin). And not too many people will be interested to know how many athletes were banned.
«Yuriy Borzakovskiy, let’s meet and talk.»
– It is believed that you were well paid to participate in the documentary. Can you confirm or do you deny this?
– Unfortunately, you do not get paid for telling the truth. You might receive money for coming up with some fascinating story. For the truth, you are more likely to get problems than payment.
– How do you earn your living then?
– We were fortunate. Some people believed us, and thought we did the right thing with the documentary. They told us, they would be glad to support us. Several of these people are now making sure that we have enough to live.
– As far as we know, you are not in Russia now?
– My condition for participating in the documentary was that Yuliya, our son, and I should not be in Russia on the day it would air. So this was ensured. We are abroad now, but we have not asked for asylum, and we do not have any specific plans. I only know that Yuliya wants to run, and I want to work in sports.
– Do you think that Russian athletics can be free of doping and still maintain its competitiveness on a global level?
– I think anything is possible, if you put the right, hardworking people on the key positions and not someone’s family members or friends. Of course, you will not be able to win every single competition. And sometimes you will have to accept the fact that someone in the world is more worthy and talented. I hope that there are athletes in Russia who can win without doping and who can stop the wrongdoing of coaches and officials.
– Could the new head coach Yuriy Borzakovskiy be the person to break the old system?
– I can only hope so. On the one hand, he said in an interview that athletes needed to compete without doping. But on the other hand, he also said that he was in talks with Mr. Maslakov and Mr. Melnikov. Excuse me? About what? I do not want this to happen, but I think, he will become a successful official (politician), and not a person who will want to break the old system. However, we are ready to talk to Yuriy, because we know him personally. It is even possible that we might show him the evidence we have. I want to tell him in public: “Yuriy, let’s meet and talk”. I also wrote a letter to the Ministry of Sports after the release of the documentary film. I tried to ask the Minister a question during his usual live conference, but there was no reaction. Perhaps the Ministry is not ready to communicate with the traitors of the doping system.
– During this entire interview we had a question on our mind: You put so much effort into this, but we do not see any bonuses. Why are you doing this?
Eighteen months ago, our son was born. He made us to reconsider many things. This may sound high-flown, but we want our son and the next generation to be better and fairer than we were. Doping is dishonest and deceptive. We have been able to admit our mistakes, and we would like to help fix the problem. In my opinion, that is better than to give up without even trying to initiate some change.
When the cyclist Lance Armstrong gave his interview in which he admitted to doping, TV host Oprah Winfrey told him at the end of the programme: “Lance, the truth will set you free.” Yuliya and I now tell the truth.
This interview has received quite some attention in Russia, and many people commented on it. Specifically, hard reactions were received by some of the people incriminated by Vitaly Stepanov
Mr. Vitaliy Mutko, Minister of Sports in Russia, accused the paper Sovetskiy Sport of “throwing mud at their home country” and of giving V. Stepanov a platform for his fabricated allegations.
Mr. Valentin Balakhnichev, temporarily suspended IAAF treasurer and former president of the Russian Athletics Federation, criticized V. Stepanov for “anti-Russian propaganda” and said that “The IAAF investigation isn’t even finished yet, but colleagues in international organizations are supporting us, and they adhere to the opinion that there was no truth in the Stepanovs’ statements”
Mr. Vadim Zelichenok, acting President of the Russian Athletics Federation, announced that in the near future the Russian Federation would meet with their lawyers and discuss the possibility to extend the existing court case against Stepanov, his wife, Hajo Seppelt, and ARD to this interview.
Mr. Andrei Mitkov, chief editor of the sports platform “allsportinfo.ru” wrote a big article about the interview and claims that the people supporting the Stepanovs may be people related to the doping mafia and trying to fight the anti-doping measures of the Russian state in order to further take advantage of the huge Russian doping black market.
This website is controlled and financed by the Russian Ministry of Sports. The full version in Russian can be found here: http://allsportinfo.ru/index.php?id=91135 .
Mr. Yevgeny Trofimov, coach of Yelena Isinbayeva, found the interview a big laugh. He wondered where media found such naive and unintelligent people as the Stepanovs, who were trying to throw dirt at everybody.