Every Swim Coach Should Watch This Show



Yuliya Stepanova sends me a video. She not only wants to tell her doping story, but also prove that doping is a problem of the system in Russia. Secretly, she had a small camera running when she recently visited Portugalov in the office. I am in possession of the original and uncut video and sound.


Grafikinsert: “Voices dubbed.”

Portugalov: “You reacted wonderfully at that time to the additives – just as if someone had given you a turbo-booster.”

And there someone else in the room. It is Alexei Melnikov, the head coach.
He says to the suspended Yuliya:


Melnikov: “We will find a way for you, so that we don’t repeat our mistakes. Now we have to be careful.”


Alexei Melnikov: The head coach of the Russian track and field athletes. In response to my questions I hear nothing. Also not from Portugalov. The allegations that he recommends, distributes and is paid for drugs are left unanswered by the doctor.


Yuliya Stepanova: “When I came to the appointments with Portugalov, I’ve seen coaches and athletes from other sports in the queue. And he also told me himself, how he prepared nordic skiers, walkers, 400 meter runners and other girls from our national team. Swimming coaches were also present. These people who I saw there, among them were also winners and medal winners from European and World Championships.”


The provision of doping – according to Russian laws a criminal offence. According to Article 234 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.


I’m back in Russia. For me, it looks increasingly like a system. The search is on for those responsible. The National Olympic Committee. This is where all the sports federations are grouped together. Also the athletic federation. But here too I am turned away. On the street I am told that German television is not allowed to film here.


Security guard: “The management has said that you may not film here.”


In response to my written questions I never get a reply from the Russian Athletics Federation.


So I fly off to the place where those responsible are sure to be found. 800 kilometres Eastwards. To Kazan. This is where the Russian Championships are being held. Journalists from countries to the West practically never lose their way here. And hardly a spectator. For years, there have been rumours that at this event many go to the start having taken drugs. Before I get to the persons in charge, the doping control officers of RUSADA, the Russian anti-doping agency catch my eye. Is everything fair here? Yuliya maintains: No.


Yuliya Stepanova: “I knew that I would be doped at the time of the Russian Championships. And Portugalov had told me: Don’t worry. You will probably then have to go to the doping control. You will be one of the first three or even win. Then you go there very calmly, just like everyone else. After the control, you will receive a pink form with the number of your sample. Send it to me by SMS and then you can sleep peacefully.”


Also when asked whether he helps to cover up positive tests: from Portugalov no reply. But here is the President of the Russian Athletics Federation, Valentin Baklakhnichev – it is mainly because of him that I came. I want to ask him directly what he has to say about the doping accusations. He prefers to speak about the great successes of Russian athletes. My interview request is declined. I try my luck with Valentin Maslakov who, alongside Alexei Melnikov, is the most important coach of the national team. After Russian television, it should be my turn. When my translator mentions the doping theme, it’s all over.


Vitaliy Stepanov: “There were times in Rusada when I heard people from the ministry, from ani-doping departement would call to Rusada and wanted to see who the athlete is, who has the positive sample and if ist a no-name, then the sample is positive, if it is someone famous or someone young and medalhopeful, then it is a mistake and it is not reported.”

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