The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Chicago and London marathon winner reportedly paid Russian officials $550,000 to keep her doping secret

Lilya Shobukhova. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
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Liliya Shobukhova is a good runner. But she wanted to be better. She wanted to win. So she started doping, and to keep her secret quiet, the 37-year-old reportedly paid Russia’s athletics federation $550,000 to help her cover up a positive test, according to the Associated Press, which cites German and French news sources.

Shobukhova has won the Chicago Marathon three times, from 2009 to 2011, as well as the London Marathon in 2010.

According to France’s L’Equipe sports newspaper and German television channel ARD, which claims to have undercover video of Shobukhova admitting to using oxandrolone, a banned steroid, the money Shobukhova reportedly paid the Russian athletics federation is what led Shobukhova to be able to compete in the 2012 Olympics, where she entered but failed to finish the marathon event.

Less than two years later, Shobukhova was stripped of her Chicago and London wins after Russian doping officials discovered suspicious blood samples in her biological passport in April of this year. As a consolation payment, ARD reports, Shobukhova’s husband received a refund of $370,000 from the Russian athletics federation, which had allegedly been using the money to bribe officials at the Russian Anti-Doping Agency to falsify positive tests. Apparently, at least one official couldn’t be bribed.

The main accusations come from former Russian Anti-Doping Agency official Vitaly Stepanov and his wife Yulia, a former runner herself who was once banned for doping. Per the Associated Press:

Stepanov told ARD that various Russian sports federations “would come to (Russian) doping control officers” offering “extra cash” to hush up positive tests. He also accused the head of the national doping test laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, of falsifying tests and selling banned substances.
Yulia Stepanova accused coaches of providing her with banned substances.
Yulia Stepanova also accused the head of the Russian federation’s medical department, Sergei Portugalov, of supplying doping products in exchange for 5 percent of an athlete’s earnings, plus bonuses for competition wins. She also said Russian athletes had avoided out-of-competition testing by using false names during foreign training camps.

The story, however, doesn’t end there. The ARD report states the behavior could be endemic and could implicate Russian officials and athletes in other sports, such as swimming, cycling, biathlon, weightlifting and cross-country skiing, the AP writes.

“These are serious allegations. I understand an investigation is already under way by the IAAF ethics commission and we await the full findings,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told AP. “Should there be anything affecting the International Olympic Committee and our code of ethics we will not hesitate take any and all action necessary.”

The Russian athletics federation and Russian Anti-Doping Agency, both of which are overseen by the Russian government, have not commented, neither to the foreign press nor to Russian publications that have also picked up the story.