Doping: More Must Be Done to Protect Whistleblowers, Says Pound

Dick Pound, chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), pictured in Montreal May 13, 2007. Pound says more should be done to protect whistleblowers in athletics. Reuters/Christinne Muschi

More must done to protect whistleblowers who are often treated worse than the drug cheats they help expose, said Dick Pound author of an explosive report that led to the decertification of the Russian anti-doping agency on Wednesday.

Pound, who led a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) independent commission that uncovered widespread doping and corruption in Russian athletics, did so with the help of evidence provided by middle-distance runner Yulia Stepanova and her husband Vitaly, a former Russian anti-doping agency official.

Yulia Stepanova, who secretly recorded conversations with fellow sports people and coaches over months, then handed the tapes over and since gone underground fearing for her safety.

"We've got to do better job encouraging and protecting whistleblowers," said Pound, who lavished praise on the pair. "They are the unsung heroes of all this.

"First of all make it easy for them to do this. Second if there is a lot of really confidential information you don't disclose that to the wrong people.

"In some cases you probably have to face the fact they are probably going to have to leave their country, we have to find them a place to go, maybe help them find a new job wherever they are.

"It is a little short of witness protection plans but it would have some of those elements."

Pound's report alleged that Dr. Sergei Portugalov, Chief of the Russian Athletics Federation's Medical Commission, provided banned substances to Russian athletes and conspired to cover up their positive test results.

The report contains a transcript of a conversation in which Stepanova discussed with a coach how Portugalov was overloaded with work helping sports people dope.

Stepanova, an 800-metre runner who was herself caught doping, was also a key part of a German television documentary that made claims of widespread doping in Russian sport, which led to the WADA independent commission.

"If you look at the original German television reports much of that information came from whistle blowers so that is a huge component in the investigatory process," WADA chief Craig Reedie told Reuters.

"Dick found that source of information useful to him in his report.

"We actually don't do whistle blowing reporting very well. We need to improve that.

"Clearly we have evidence whistle blowers can be an important part of the exercise, we have to work out what our policy is and how we do it."