By Gene Cherry
(Reuters) – Russia’s doping “culture” will take years to change, regardless of the nation’s ban from the Winter Olympics, whistle-blower Vitaly Stepanov said on Tuesday.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned Russia from the Pyeongchang Games on Tuesday after it found evidence of an “unprecedented systematic manipulation” of the anti-doping system.
Stepanov, a former employee of the Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA, helped expose massive doping problems in Russia in 2014 with his athlete wife Yulia Stepanova.
He welcomed the IOC decision as “fair” but expressed doubt that it would do much to change Russia’s mindset in the short term.
“I think we are still many years away from the time when the doping culture truly changes in Russia,” he told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.
“There are many sports officials running sports in Russia in the old way. Many coaches that are still doing the same… doping athletes.
“Many athletes who believe everybody is doping and the only way to win is to dope as well.
“Those are the things that have to change and it takes a long time.”
Stepanov and his wife’s evidence triggered a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigation that alleged the Russian government was complicit in an elaborate scheme of institutional doping.
Moscow has consistently denied state involvement and the couple, who live in the United States at an undisclosed location, have been denounced as traitors.
WADA has demanded Moscow own up to state-sponsored doping as a condition of lifting its suspension of RUSADA.
Russian president Vladimir Putin is expected to respond to the IOC decision on Wednesday.
“We’ll find out tomorrow,” Stepanov said.
“If the Russian president agrees to the terms by the IOC, and they do not boycott the Games, then that would mean they admit the guilt, admit the state-run doping system.
“Even if they say something different, I think to the rest of the world it would be clear that they did it. Not that it is not clear now,” added Stepanov.
“You have to admit your own guilt before starting to change.”
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Ian Ransom)