Russian whistleblower denied bid to compete in Rio Olympics

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The IOC rejected Sunday the bid by Russian whistleblower Yulia Stepanova to compete as neutral athlete in the Rio Olympics.

Stepanova was cleared by track and field’s world governing body earlier this month to compete as a neutral athlete in the European championships and the Olympics. But the IOC did not accept the decision for the Olympics.

The 800-meter runner provided evidence to the World Anti-Doping Agency of widespread cheating in Russia that led the IAAF to bar the country’s track and field athletes from international competition, including the Rio Games.

Stepanova, who served a two-year doping ban before turning whistleblower, is now living and training in the United States at an undisclosed location.

The IOC said Stepanova did not meet the criteria for running under the IOC flag and, because she had committed doping violations, did not satisfy the “ethical requirements” to compete in the games. However, the IOC added that it would invite her and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, to attend the games.

The IAAF said its doping review board accepted Stepanova’s application to compete as an independent athlete under “exceptional eligibility” rules.

Two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva welcomed the decision to bar Stepanova from competing in Rio. Isinbayeva, who herself has been prevented from going as part of a blanket ban on the Russian track team, tells Russia’s R-Sport agency that “at least one wise decision on track and field has been taken” in Stepanova’s case.

Isinbayeva also called for Stepanova to be “banned for life.”

Stepanova and her husband left Russia in 2014 citing fears for their safety and have been branded traitors by many Russian fans and officials.

The leader of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Travis Tygart, says the decision to refuse Stepanova entry into the games is “incomprehensible” – and a move that will undoubtedly deter whistleblowers in the future from coming forward.

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