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Stepanova banned from Games - but invited to attend

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Russia Yulia Stepanova walking on the track as she was injured during the 800m at the European Championships. Photo: Getty

Russia Yulia Stepanova walking on the track as she was injured during the 800m at the European Championships. Photo: Getty

Russia Yulia Stepanova walking on the track as she was injured during the 800m at the European Championships. Photo: Getty

Yuliya Stepanova, the whistleblower who lifted the lid on Russia's shocking state-sponsored doping regime, has been told she is not eligible to compete at the Olympics.

However, in a bizarre twist, the International Olympic Committee invited her and husband Vitaly to watch the Games as special guests.

Stepanova, an 800m runner who served a two-year drug ban from 2011 to 2013, was given clearance by the International Association of Athletics Federations to compete at international events as a "neutral athlete" in recognition of her role in exposing the Russian doping programme.

She returned at the European Championships this month, but the IOC has ruled she cannot compete at the Olympics under a new regulation banning any Russian who has previously served a doping ban.

Explaining the decision, the IOC said it weighed up Stepanova's contribution to exposing the Russian doping regime, with her "long implication" in it and the fact that she only spoke out after she had already been caught taking drugs.

Stepanova fled Russia with her husband and young son in December 2014 and has lived in a secret location in the United States for much of the past year.

Despite dashing Stepanova's Olympic hopes, IOC president Thomas Bach said he hoped the decision would encourage other dopers to come forward.

"I think it will be an encouragement for all future whistleblowers," he said. "We have expressed our appreciation for her whistleblowing and this is why we are inviting the two to attend the games as guests of the IOC." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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