Whistleblower Stepanova runs buts fails to reach 800 semi

AMSTERDAM (AP) Ostracized by many in her native Russia for blowing the whistle on doping practices, Yulia Stepanova finally had a chance to run, in the European championships, but was let down by her body.

She pulled up in her 800-meter heat when she tore a ligament in her right foot, further endangering her chances of taking part in the Rio Games.

''While I was running there was a snap that I heard and I could not understand what happened,'' she said through a translator. It happened some 200 meters from the finish but by then she was already in last place in her heat, where she had been since the start.

She limped to the line, bent on finishing her race, but it was another setback among many that have turned her career from a promising middle distance runner into an athlete primarily known for what she did off the track.

Stepanova is half of the husband-and-wife team that has blown a Russian doping scandal wide open. Her husband is Vitaly Stepanov, a former Russian anti-doping official and between them, they were able to gather a trove of evidence on how doping has worked in Russia.

Stepanov provided information on the manipulation of samples to ensure Russia's sports stars didn't fail doping tests, while his wife shot undercover footage of athletes and coaches apparently discussing how to dope.

That evidence was crucial to a documentary broadcast in Germany in December, which in turn sparked a World Anti-Doping Agency inquiry and subsequent damning report.

''The pressure was very hard, I had a lot of people who did not believe me,'' she said. ''Russia still does not believe this.'' Before the race, other athletes had already come over to congratulate her for being a lynchpin in exposing the scandal.

''When I was sitting in the changing room, all the girls from the direct opposition I had today came up to me and said thank you for what you've done,'' she said.

In Amsterdam, she was competing as a neutral athlete under a special exemption since her nation is barred from competing because of the doping scandal.

Even if the IAAF world athletics federation allowed her to compete and the Europeans welcomed her, it is still unclear how and if she will compete in Rio.

The injury did not improve her chances.

''First of all I don t know yet whether I will be at the Olympics,'' she said in the bowels of the Amsterdam Olympic stadium, sitting on a chair for comfort.

''Secondly I have to see how my injury improves.''

Stepanova said she came into Wednesday's race with a painful inflammation in her foot, and her lack of form showed. She had come from North America only days before her race and the jetlag showed.

Stepanova is the only Russian at the European championships running under such a special neutral flag exemption.

''I'm very happy to have been able to compete here,'' she said.

On the first day of the championships, Yasemin Can of Turkey won the first gold, when she tore away from the pack early on and took the 10,000 meter title well ahead of Dulce Felix of Portugal.

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