Last week, the PCC held our bi-annual conference. Themed Beyond Research: Translating Anti-Doping Impact into Impact, the conference featured panels and presentations highlighting the newest technology resulting from PCC research, and the implications of such advances for anti-doping labs, administrators, and athletes.
Each presentation and panel was thought provoking, educational, and insightful. However, one portion of the conference was uniquely memorable: the presentation of the Partnership for Clean Competition’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Anti-Doping to Yuliya Stepanova. While accepting this award, she was accompanied by her husband, Vitaly and son, Robert.
The moment brought the crowd of 110 anti-doping scientists, administrators, and practitioners to their feet in reverence of the courage of Mrs. Stepanova, the former Russian track and field athlete who gave up her career and homeland to stand up for clean sport.
You may remember Yuliya’s story: a Russian middle distance runner, Yuliya recorded conversations by Russian coaches and athletes over a two year period as they described their methods for attaining and using PEDs. The recordings became critical evidence in Mr. Richard McLaren’s investigation of doping in Russia.
Yuliya has been called the greatest whistleblower in the history of sport by some, a traitor by others. The PCC considers her a hero.
“Not many people would sacrifice their financial security, the dream they’ve pursued for years, and even their safety to do the right thing. But Yuliya did. She stood up for clean sport, and in doing so stood up for the millions of clean athletes competing today, and the millions of clean athletes that will look up to her for decades to come. Yuliya’s act was selfless, historic, and courageous, and it was the PCC’s honor to recognize it,” stated PCC Executive Director Michael Pearlmutter.
Yuliya accepted her award to a standing ovation, her husband and son by her side. Yuliya and Vitaly then addressed the crowd, providing firsthand accounts of the complexity of the Russian doping system, and expressing gratitude for an anti-doping community which has embraced their family. The Stepanovas then addressed audience questions with a pragmatic, yet hopeful demeanor. Regarding Yuliya’s bravery, her husband said simply: “I’d like to believe it will bring big change.”
We certainly hope it does.
A transcript of Yuliya’s speech is below.
Thank you. My name is Yuliya Stepanova. Please let me read my short message to you as my English is not very good yet. Thank you very much for recognizing my family’s effort to fight doping in sport. First, I want to apologize for my athletics past. Unfortunately, I cannot change my past. I was in the Russian doping system, I used doping, and now I am talking about it. In the beginning of 2013, I wrote a ten page statement to WADA describing every substance prohibited & not prohibited that I took during my sport career. I will gladly provide the statement to anyone in the audience so you can understand how bad the cheating was in Russia. Not every athlete is able to tell the truth about themselves. I did it.
When I was sanctioned, Vitaly, my husband, helped me see the world through different eyes. Vitaly offered me a choice: we could try to fight the system together, or I could act like most of my teammates did, cry a little and continue to listen to the lies of Russian sport officials. Most athletes in Russia do not have that choice. I want to continue to run and compete without doping. I do not want to lie and listen to lies again. The Russian doping system does not hate people that stay in the system and get caught. It hates people that try to fight the system – and we decided to fight it. I knew that we would be traitors to Russia, but we felt that we were doing the right thing. I hope in the future, athletics competition in Russia and around the world become fair. We really appreciate all the support we have received from anti-doping organizations, athletes, the IOC, the IAAF, the media, and so many people around the world. Thank you. Thank you for this award. It means a lot to our family.
As stakeholders in the fight for sporting integrity, it was an absolute privilege to recognize the courageous act and immense sacrifice made by Yuliya Stepanova. The PCC wishes Yuliya success in her future athletic pursuits, and will continue working to push anti-doping science forward for clean athletes globally.
To learn more about Yuliya’s story, watch this BBC video.