First Vitaliy even helps his wife with doping, procures the drugs, leads a kind of double life. Scarcely bearable. Then: they do not want to continue to lie, they say, write to the World Anti-Doping Agency, describe their experiences. I am wondering why nothing about this was made public. At the end of this story, I will know it and the fairytale of clean sport will be refuted for all time. A story that sounds incredibly even on a small scale.
Yuliya Stepanova: “Either my coach ordered the Epo in the pharmacy and then brought it to me or I’ve simply bought it myself.”
Performance-enhancing drugs at the pharmacy. Illegal without a prescription. I know that already from Belarus or Mexico. But here I do not even have to go to a pharmacy. Apparently here you can order EPO injections from home just like the pizza service. Yulia gives me the number of a pharmacy. My translator calls them.
Reporter on the phone: “Good morning. Can I place an order?”
“Yes, with express delivery.”
“One pack of Epokrin 2000.”
“Thank you very much.”
Woman, made unrecognizable (no insert): “Good day.”
Reporter: “Good day.”
Woman, made unrecognizable (no insert): “Here is the delivery. You should store it in the refrigerator.”
Reporter: “OK, and what about the bill?”
Woman, made unrecognizable (no insert): “Just a moment… That’s 3,925 rubles.”
Woman, made unrecognizable (no insert): “Many thanks. Goodbye.”
Epo for just over 60 Euros. Prescription only. But no one asks for one. Such Epo injections – they for years have been a natural part of everyday life for Yuliya Stepanova, she says. While she is training, every morning her husband leaves home to fight against doping. He was with RUSADA for three years up to 2011. Two worlds under one roof. The main task of RUSADA: doping tests. Why only few athletes are caught thereby, the two of them believe they know.
Vitaliy Stepanov: “Russian athletics, any sports officials went to the doping control officers, have offered them food, or cash so that they could have a bit of fun in the evening.”
Yuliya Stepanova: “In a training camp in Portugal, our athletes simply lived under false names. They have taken banned substances, they undertook a course of doping, and to ensure that foreign control officers did not come and test them, they provided false names. When we were in Kyrgyzstan in a training camp, I was supposed to start a course of tablets on 15th November. A coach asked me, have you got clean urine? I said to him: no, you should have told me about that before. Then he said: fill some in here in advance, so that you have some if the control officers come here. I then did what he had said and I had a container in the freezer with clean urine.”
When I got back to Berlin, I tried to analyze what Yuliya Stepanova and her husband Vitaliy had told me. I’m interested in the latest annual report of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency – from 2013. 23,110 controls. The most in the world. 2.2 percent of them were positive. More than 500 cases. And the others? Have perhaps really not drugged? Who can I believe? The statistics or Yuliya and Vitaly?
During the research, which has now been going on for weeks, a first breakthrough: from several sources comes ever more new information. And then this: I even receive audio files of conversations between top coaches and athletes.
Woman: “What have you got there? Epo?”
Man: “Peptide hormones. They have an impact on stamina, boost testosterone.”
I have the original audio recordings, in full length. Also from this conversation.
Woman: “They are banned substances?”
Man: “Don’t say that, call them a special kind of preparation, special preparation. That’s how it will go in winter.”
And then I listen to Alexei Melnikov, one of two national coaches of the Russian athletes.
Man: “We don’t need high haemoglobin levels. Why do we need Epo, especiallyin quantities like earlier.”
Of course, I also asked Melnikov and the other coaches about this. Nobody gave me any answers. Yuliya Stepanova was also trained by these coaches. I remember what she told me about them.
Yuliya Stepanova: “They take any girl, feed her with pills and then she runs. And tomorrow she will be suspended and then they say, we’ll find a new one. They feed her and say, take that, everybody takes it. Take these substances. And if one is caught, they throw away the athlete and take a new one.”