Courage & How The Stepanovs Reveal Rot At Heart Of ‘Sochi System’ FINA Put Its Faith In

Kieren Perkins - Courage is the word on the can at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame where he is a board member; Integrity debate Down Under makes fine contribution to the fight for clean sport and better governance today

Editorial: The Stepanovs show more courage as they reveal the rot at the heart of the Sochi Winter Olympics anti-doping test program and system on which FINA placed its faith when it came to trust in the testing process for the 2015 World Championships in Kazan

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Editorial: The Stepanovs show more courage as they reveal the rot at the heart of the Sochi Winter Olympics anti-doping test program and system on which FINA placed its faith when it came to trust in the testing process for the 2015 World Championships in Kazan



Too much money and corruption and cover ups in sport, how can anyone believe in clean sport? there was never clean sport and never will be, its a nice fantasy to have though!

Craig Lord

Gheko, there was clean sport; there is clean sport. The minority, however significant their impact, remains a minority. If that were not so, most of us would not be here. Don’t taint all those who work hard to achieve what they do with the same tar that paves the way of cheats – you inflict a second dagger marked ‘unfair’ by doing so. I cannot believe you feel the entire national teams of USA, AUS, GBR, ESP, FRA, DEN, SWE etc etc are all on doping – that would be ridiculously silly of you. And if you do feel that way, then please do go and enjoy swimming elsewhere: this would be no place for you. Here, we make the distinction where distinction exists – and it does indeed exist – to ignore it is simply wrong and lacks any sense of deeper understanding. It is the equivalent of saying ‘it’s always sunny in Africa’ or ‘it always rains in Britain’ etc: daft and untrue. It is also the greatest excuse for cheats there ever was.


gheko, unless your comment above was an impetuous throwaway designed to spark a reaction, then your cynical and totally misinformed opinion indirectly contributes to the perpetuation of doping in sport. The current day dopers morally justification is often – “everyone is doping so its OK”.

As pointed out by Craig there are whole countries that run credible in and out of competition testing and anti doping programs approved by WADA and athletes are competing clean.

So you need to decide whether you are part of the problem or part of the solution.


My point is people are still cheating and not being caught, I know that most athletes are clean but do we really know who is and who isnt? The scientists are way ahead of the drug tests!

Craig Lord

No, Gheko but we have a good idea and we can place trust in the majority that show no signs of having done anything wrong to merit being lumped in the sin bin with those who clearly have or merit our suspicion. (If that trust is betrayed, no hiding place). Yes, people are still cheating and not getting caught – and the system needs to improve, just as the will to fight it all needs to be far stronger among a fair few signatories to the WADA Code. But you should chose your words more carefully – what you’ve been saying is that ‘they’re all cheating’; that’s like walking into a packed shopping centre after hearing news of a couple of overnight murders in two cities 100km apart and saying ‘they’re all murderers’. No, they’re not. This is, of course, not only about the swimmer/athlete who joins the list of those testing positive; it runs deeper, to cultural issues, including the prevailing attitude, such as that touched on by the FINA director, that ‘we will never win this fight’. So what? Why does he make the point? Is it to state what you’ve been saying ‘they’re all cheating’. There’s often a silent ‘so let it be’ at the end of a sentence like that – and that’s why I ask you to rephrase your thought in a way that does not speak to the biggest excuse for cheating cheats often cite to self and others: they’re all doing it, so why shouldn’t I. Those blazers who deep down feel that way are also responsible for a system in which the little man from developing country X gets 4 years, no argument; the ‘star’ gets a much reduced penalty that comes with an excuse and a lawyer in tow – and a shrug from the WADA signatory that ought to challenge the ruling and press for full-term as allowed under the Code. Some they will win, some they will lose – but fight it they should.


On the death of Chinese swimmer Qing Wenyi. Chinese law for the cause of death was not suspicious of non criminal cases, the family of the deceased has the right to refuse the autopsy, while in China, because the traditional, the deceased’s family refused to autopsy is a common thing.So, Qing Wenyi is not autopsy and the Chinese Swimming Association, China Sports Bureau does not matter,As to whether she has a relationship with doping, at least there is no evidence。


I do not condone any type of cheating, in any way or form, but its happening sadly right now, and will continue to happen till the cheats get caught which will never happen, under the current regime!

Craig Lord

gheko, thanks for the clarification – that’s why it is so important to use words other than those used by those failing to do the best job …

Craig Lord

Vichel, it is where nations can do far more than they do when it comes to anti-doping (and not just sports bodies). The autonomy of sport has allowed these huge discrepancies of treatment between peoples supposedly governed by the same rules (some of those rules designed to protect the athlete). If the law in China states that the coroner cannot override the view of parents or anyone else, then clearly the law is an ass, for obvious reasons – and in the case of a 17-yr old’s sudden death while on an official training camp, there should have been no question over an autopsy. The potential (certainly is not required and should not be required) for criminal involvement in a controlled environment that has a poor history of how young people have been treated is clear. The autopsy would have been just as important to clear the system of any wrongdoing as it would have been to say why and how the child died – information that could have been of great value to the process of learning and trying to prevent such things happening to others. I see poor practice at work on a number of levels in this case.


This interview with Stepanovs raises several questions. First of all if they didn’t do what they did will the Russian Sport Federation be in trouble today. And the answer is “no”. Russian athletes wouldn’t have any problem with their participation in Olympic Games in Rio. Then how was it possible that doping violation at such significant level wasn’t detected and for so long by international controlling organizations. Don’t all these clean countries listed by Mr. Lord care that there is some reason why international untidoping system is powerless against well organized cheating backed by political support and money. So the only hope for the clean sport lovers is for existance of whistleblowers like Stepanovs. But Stepanovs can be hardly qualified as the whistleblowers. Their act looks more like retaliation for the “unfair” suspension of cheating athlete who didn’t have any doubts that doping was a wrong doing if everybody around do same thing. When thinking about this i wouldn’t rush to shame gheko.

Craig Lord

Yozhik, no one is shaming gheko (I merely remind him not to taint all for the sake of the few because that is the line that cheats take and the line leant on by those who help the cheats by falling down as guardians of clean sport) – and your point is far off the mark. There is no sense of retaliation whatsoever in what the Stepanovs have said and done and told us. Vitaly Stepanov attempted to fight the system from within – to no avail. He had the courage to do something about it. Most never find that courage, some for understandable reasons, others not. The Stepanovs pay a price every day – they also live their reward. As for clean countries listed by me: I do no such thing. I say “the entire national teams of X Y Z and etc” – that conveys a whole different meaning and speaks directly to the notion that “everyone is cheating”. No, they are not. The interview with the Stepanovs is further confirmation that there are practices at play in Russia that you would most certainly not expect to find (and will not find, more than likely) in many other nations excelling in sport.


Whilst not fully agreeing with Gheko, I certainly understand where he/she is coming from. The number of international sporting federations under investigation or experiencing scandals due to corruption allegations; the bloated gigantism of the Olympics and the overall mood in many countries of wanting public expenditure on “infrastructure” rather than “circuses” DO give good reason for cynicism at the very least.

As for doping, I do feel what we are seeing IS very different to the old “state programs’ of the later Cold War era. Why ? For the very reason that the organisation and funding of sports in these nations is no longer centralised or under state control. State connivance and facilitation certainly seems to be the case but drawing parallels to the DDR is a rather long bow.

Does it need full investigation and clean-up, and suspension from competition ? Most certainly but I’m not sure that ANY major sporting nation can play the role of moral policeman. Almost all have their own skeletons in their closet, some with links to national programs.

Are most top international sportsmen/women clean ? We can hope so but unless we have intimate knowledge of their regimes/inner circle, we cannot know so. It would be fair to say that an overwhelming majority use “supplements”, many of which have been cleared but this entire area of the pharmaceutical/health area is far less regulated than others.

How many operate in the gray area of medications that are currently legal or that have not yet been fully investigated ? How many make use of TUEs (Therapeutic Use Exemptions) for various medications, especially with regards to asthma ?

Regrettably, one of the prevailing traits of human nature is that of finding whatever legal loopholes available and exploiting them as much as one can for as long as one can.

Not all international sport is irrevocably “tainted” but we have to realise that the days of amateurism are long gone when it comes to top line international competition. Like the rest of life, there are very few “lily whites” but rather an inordinate variety of shades of gray.

Craig Lord

CW, I agree with some of your points but pull you up on the idea that sport in Russia is not state controlled/centralised. I will write more on this in the near future but the funding system, the structures in play are absolutely part of the problem and while not identical to the days of GDR have certain parallels that are troubling when it comes to cultural, systematic influence. Your shades of grey may well exist, so do many clean programs – and then there are dark patches that need the light training on them. Russia and China are among nations that have specific problems associated with the structures of governance and control and the environment in which young athletes find themselves in – I state that in regards to swimming on the basis of what I know (some of that written), not just what I believe to be the truth. My problem with gheko’s comments was clear: the use of the words “everyone” and “all” is simply unfair to a vast shoal of people who are working within the framework and the spirit of the WADA Code and clean sport.


Craig i never said all athletes are cheating but if you read that into what I said thats fine, I said there was never clean sport as a whole, and there isnt, If you can prove otherwise, I would love to see the evidence.

Craig Lord

It’s not fine, gheko: I wouldn’t want to misrepresent what you mean. I agree, there is no such thing as clean sport overall given that cheats are with us always. I’m glad you think there are clean athletes out there.

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