Russia dope whistleblower to race in Boston

LONDON • Russian whistleblower Yulia Stepanova will face an international field indoors for the first time in two years when she runs at the Boston Indoor Grand Prix tomorrow, the 800m specialist said on Wednesday.

"I hope not to be last with a big space between me and the previous runner," Stepanova, who will compete as a neutral athlete, said in a telephone interview translated by her husband Vitaly Stepanov.

The couple helped expose massive doping problems in Russia that led to the country's track and field team being banned from international competition. They have since been living in an undisclosed location in the United States after receiving death threats.

The former Russian national team member will be lining up against Ethiopian Habitam Alemu and Britain's Lynsey Sharp, both Olympians, in tomorrow's meet, which is the opening leg of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) world indoor tour.

She is hoping to use the meeting as a springboard for more competitions both indoors and outdoors in the United States this year.

Her husband added that while her advanced age and lack of high-level competition are far from ideal, Stepanova would aim to obtain the 800m qualifying standard for August's World Championships in London.

He said: "She was injured in the summer (on her first attempt at a comeback at the 2016 European championships, when she was well beaten in her heat) and she has been slowly trying to get in shape.

"She's healthy but nervous. We are not expecting much in Boston.

"She is just happy she can run again."

The race will be her first indoor race against an international field since 2015 in France.

The IAAF cleared the former convicted drug cheat's return to competition as a neutral athlete last year but her European Championships appearance in Amsterdam ended with a torn tendon.

Her only recorded time in competition since then was at an indoor meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, earlier this month.

Then, she ran the 800m race in 2min 10.32sec, more than 12 seconds off her indoor best set in 2011.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2017, with the headline 'Russia dope whistleblower to race in Boston'. Print Edition | Subscribe