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The Russian whistleblowers who exposed a widespread doping scandal in their home country learned Friday, along with the rest of the world, that Russia's track team has been banned for the Olympics

ASSOCIATED PRESS
ASSOCIATED PRESS
SATURDAY, JUNE 18, 2016 2:00 AM GMT

There was no celebration at Vitaly and Yulia Stepanov's house when the news came down. "I'd say 80 percent sad, 20 percent hope," Vitaly Stepanov told The Associated Press.

The Russian whistleblowers who exposed a widespread doping scandal in their home country learned Friday, along with the rest of the world, that Russia's track team has been banned from the Olympics.

Also news: Track's governing body is recommending that Yulia, the 800-meter runner who also doped as part of the Russian scheme, be allowed to compete in Rio under an independent flag.

That recommendation must be ratified by the International Olympic Committee, which will meet next week to discuss who should and should not be allowed to compete later this summer.

"I learned there's hope," Yulia said. "And hope is always good."

Yet, the latest developments were not cause for true celebration, they said.

"The sad part is that it continues to happen in Russia instead of making real changes," said Yulia Stepanova, who moved, along with her family, from Russia to an undisclosed home in the United States for fear of their safety. "The changes they're making are fake."

Vitaly, the former worker for the Russian anti-doping agency, said he was happy to see the IAAF send a strong message.

"It shows that when you cheat, you will be punished and, unfortunately, I don't think Russian sports officials thought they'd ever be punished," he said. "I think they were thinking they were playing some kind of game. In the end, they can be punished, but also, athletes can be punished."

The IAAF allowed only a sliver of room for some Russian athletes to compete independently. To do so, they must prove they are clean and that they have been monitored by an anti-doping agency outside of their own country.

That news was greeted by loud protests from Russia, where everyone from President Vladimir Putin to world-record pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva have portrayed the IAAF's decision as collective punishment for a select group of wrongdoers.

The IAAF, with help of evidence from investigators, sees it differently — a state-directed scheme in which some innocent athletes must be punished.

Stepanov agrees, saying "I cannot say, for sure, who's clean and who's not clean" in Russia.

"But I know for sure that true champions, when they see something wrong, they fight it," he said. "They don't sit and get paid by the corrupt system. That's what happened with a lot of clean athletes in Russia. Maybe they're clean, but they're also quiet, and they get paid a lot of money."

The independent commission that looked into Russian doping said 90 percent of the Russian athletes it asked for information either did not respond or refused to cooperate.

"What's been frustrating is that officials in the ministry are apologizing for athletes but they aren't taking any responsibility," Stepanov said. "In my view, it doesn't work this way. You have to admit mistakes, have to be punished for mistakes. Only then can you start changing."

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