Send in the whistleblowers. That it is the goal of Fair Sport, the nonprofit foundation recently formed for the singular purpose of encouraging and protecting whistleblowers willing to speak out against cheating, doping and all the other misconduct plaguing international sports these days. Leading the charge in this effort is Norwegian speedskating gold medalist Johann Koss, former Assistant United States Attorney Edwin Stier, and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft partner Louisa Watt. The group will offer whistleblowers a range of financial and legal assistance including housing, criminal defense, immigration applications and psychological counseling.
Fair Sport will not set out on its noble quest alone. According to a report in the New York Times, it plans to work closely with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in its ongoing efforts to stamp out bribery, corruption and drug trafficking. The collaboration will supplement WADA’s newly christened “Speak Up!” campaign which offers a secure website for whistleblowers to provide information to “[h]elp us protect the clean athlete and the integrity of sport” and “move closer to a clean and fair playing field for all.” In addition to WADA, Fair Sport is also pursuing agreements with national antidoping authorities and law enforcement agencies.
These new Fair Sport and WADA international whistleblower crusades are a direct response to the trouble and torment faced by Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov, a married couple who were among the first to speak out about systematic doping in Russian track and field. These programs also follow what happened to Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of Russia’s national antidoping laboratory who further reported on Russia’s government-ordered cheating scandal. Both the Stepanovs and Dr. Rodchenkov were forced to leave Russia and live in hiding in the United States with serious concerns about their safety.
It is to prevent this kind of whistleblower mistreatment that Fair Sport is all about. And to send a clear message to whistleblowers going forward that you will not be alone in your quest for truth and justice. As former Assistant United States Attorney Stier explained, “[p]eople who come forward are going to have a lot of baggage. “They can be heroic figures who emerge from a dark past, but we’ve got to be prepared to assess who they are and how accurate their information is, and then assure them they’re protected.”
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