Yuliya Stepanova

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Yuliya Stepanova
Yuliya Rusanova Istanbul 2012.jpg
Rusanova at the 2012 World Indoor Championships in Istanbul
Personal information
Born (1986-07-03) 3 July 1986 (age 34)
Kursk, Russia, Soviet Union
Event(s)800–1500 m
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)800 m – 1:56.99 (2011)
1000 m – 2:39.81 (2009)
1500 m – 4:06.08 (2009)[1]

Yuliya Igorevna Stepanova (née Rusanova; Russian: Ю́лия И́горевна Степанова (Русанова); born 3 July 1986) is a Russian runner who specializes in the 800 metres track event. She and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, exposed widespread doping in Russia.


Stepanova, then known as Yuliya Rusanova, started having testosterone injections at the suggestion of her coach, Vladimir Mokhnev, and later took anabolic steroids.[2] She said in a 2016 interview, "I knew it was banned but I think my coach prepared me well because he was telling me stories about how it's normal, that's what all athletes do."[2] On 26 February 2013, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) announced that Rusanova had been banned for two years following abnormalities in her biological passport. All of her results from 3 March 2011 were forfeited.[3]

Stepanova and her husband Vitaliy Stepanov, a former employee of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, wrote letters to the World Anti-Doping Agency describing doping in Russia but received little response. Deciding she needed more evidence, she began secretly recording conversations with coaches, athletes, and a doctor.[2] In 2014, the couple appeared in a documentary by Hajo Seppelt for the German TV network Das Erste, accusing the Russian sports system of large-scale doping fraud. Both said that Russian athletics officials supplied banned substances in exchange for 5% of an athlete's earnings and falsified tests together with doping control officers.[4][5] A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin called Stepanova a "Judas".[6] The Russian media have attacked her character and her mother received criticism at work for raising an "unpatriotic" daughter.[7]

Although the IAAF decided not to lift the ban on Russian athletes before the 2016 Summer Olympics, it stated that "three or four" Russian athletes might be permitted to appear as independent competitors.[8] Its taskforce recommended that Stepanova be allowed to compete due to her "truly exceptional contribution to the fight against doping in sport" including "great personal risks".[6] WADA's former chief investigator, Jack Robertson, praised Stepanova for giving information without asking for a reduction of her sentence, to which she was entitled as a whistleblower.[9] She completed her full sentence.

On 1 July 2016, the IAAF approved Stepanova's application to compete as a neutral athlete.[10] Five days later, she competed at the European Championships but finished last in her heat with a torn ligament in her foot.[11] On 24 July, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rejected the recommendation to allow Stepanova to compete at the 2016 Summer Olympics, citing her drug infraction in 2013, for which she had served her sentence.[12] WADA director general Olivier Niggli stated that his agency was "very concerned by the message that this sends whistleblowers for the future."[13] Stepanova said, "Unfortunately, the behaviour of [IOC President] Thomas Bach was the same as Russia's behaviour towards us."[14] In August 2016, WADA reported that Stepanova's athlete account, where she enters information about her whereabouts, had been hacked. According to WADA, "A subsequent investigation allowed the agency to determine that no other athlete accounts on ADAMS have been accessed."[15] Bach said that the IOC was "not responsible for dangers to which Ms. Stepanova may be exposed."[16]

In October 2016, the IOC announced that it had offered to assist Stepanova to continue her sports career.[17] Later the same year, she was chosen as one of BBC's 100 Women[18] and Germany's Doping-Opfer-Hilfe (Doping Victims Assistance) awarded her its 2016 Anti-Doping Prize.[19]

In July 2018, Stepanova testified before the U.S. Helsinki Commission in Washington, DC on the subject of doping in sports. She was on a panel alongside Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Administration, Jim Walden, the attorney for Russian Whistle-blower Grigory Rodchenkov, and Katie Uhlaender, a four-time Olympian competitor in skeleton.[20] Stepanova claimed that speaking out against doping in Russia would have put her life at risk.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Rusanova was raised in Kursk.[22] She married Vitaly Stepanov in 2009, and gave birth to their son in November 2013.[23] She now uses the surname Stepanova, the feminine form of Stepanov. Together with her husband and son, she moved from Russia to Germany in December 2014.[24] As of 2016, they lived in the United States.[11]

Yuliya trained to compete at the 2017 World Championships in Athletics[25] but did not compete.


Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing  Russia
2011 European Indoor Championships Paris, France Disqualified 800 m 2:00.80
World Championships Daegu, South Korea Disqualified 800 m 1:59.74
2012 World Indoor Championships Istanbul, Turkey Disqualified 800 m 2:01.87


  1. ^ Yuliya Stepanova at World Athletics
  2. ^ a b c Ash, Lucy (9 December 2016). "100 Women 2016: Russian doping whistleblower gives rare interview". BBC News.
  3. ^ Turnbull, Simon (26 February 2013). "Marilyn Okoro set for belated bronze". The Independent.
  4. ^ "ARD-Dokumentation deckt Doping und Vertuschungsapparat in Russland auf" [ARD documentary on doping in Russia] (in German). Westdeutscher Rundfunk. 3 December 2014. * English translation: "Exclusive: ARD Documentary exposes Doping and Cover-up System in Russia / Active Athletes, Coaches and Insiders come clean". letsrun.com. 3 December 2014.
  5. ^ "Russian doping claims: 99% of athletes guilty, German TV alleges". BBC News. 4 December 2014.
  6. ^ a b "IAAF Taskforce: Interim report to IAAF Council, 17 June 2016" (PDF). IAAF. 17 June 2016.
  7. ^ Ash, Lucy (30 December 2016). "Yuliya Stepanova: What do Russians think of doping whistleblower?". BBC News.
  8. ^ "Door opened for "gamechanger" Stepanova to compete independently at Rio 2016".
  9. ^ Epstein, David (4 August 2016). "On Eve of Olympics, Top Investigator Details Secret Efforts to Undermine Russian Doping Probe". ProPublica.
  10. ^ Wilson, Stephen (1 July 2016). "Russian whistleblower cleared to compete as neutral athlete". Associated Press.
  11. ^ a b Ingle, Sean (6 July 2016). "Yuliya Stepanova makes her return but injury could end her Rio hopes". The Guardian.
  12. ^ "Rio Olympics 2016: Russia not given blanket Games ban by IOC". BBC. 24 July 2016.
  13. ^ "WADA acknowledges IOC decision on Russia, stands by Agency's Executive Committee recommendations". WADA. 24 July 2016.
  14. ^ "Video: Exclusive interview with Vitaliy und Yuliya Stepanov". Das Erste. 17 August 2016.
  15. ^ "Rio Olympics 2016: Russian whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova has account hacked". BBC News. 13 August 2016.
  16. ^ Grohmann, Karolos (20 August 2016). "Any danger to whistleblower Stepanova not an IOC issue-Bach". Reuters.
  17. ^ Wilson, Stephen (24 October 2016). "IOC says it is offering assistance to Russian whistleblowers". Associated Press.
  18. ^ "BBC 100 Women 2016: Who is on the list?". BBC. 21 November 2016.
  19. ^ Penfold, Chuck (6 December 2016). "Whistleblower Stepanova awarded German Anti-Doping Prize". Sport-Informations-Dienst. Deutsche Welle.
  20. ^ "Hearing points to Putin's role in Russian doping scandal". 25 July 2018. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  21. ^ Nuckols, Ben (25 July 2018). "Hearing points to Vladimir Putin's role in Russian doping scandal". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  22. ^ Brant, John (22 June 2016). "The Marriage That Led to the Russian Track Team's Olympic Ban". The New York Times.
  23. ^ Ford, Bonnie D. (15 June 2016). "Athletes, others who raise doping concerns in sports often left whistling into the wind". ESPN.
  24. ^ «Россия мне такого не простит». Продолжение перевода скандального фильма о допинге в России. sovsport.ru (4 December 2014)
  25. ^ "Yuliya Stepanova: What do Russians think of doping whistleblower?". BBC News. Retrieved 30 December 2016.