In December 2014, German television showed secret video and audio recordings, eyewitness testimonies and documents that uncovered a sensational conspiracy among Russian and international sports leaders engaged in corrupt alliances and the manipulation of doping testing.
The broadcast triggered a series of reports, investigations and further TV documentaries on what is now regarded as an unprecedented doping fraud that completely changed the public view on international sport and anti-doping.
On the last day of Play the Game 2017, held in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, the two whistleblowers Yulia and Vitaly Stepanov, as well as the investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt, received the Play the Game Award 2017 for their part in pulling aside “the curtains that were hiding the truth” and putting “international sport and anti-doping organisations worldwide to work”.
“You have shown us what can be achieved with personal courage, unwavering commitment and tireless efforts, and you fully deserve the Play the Game Award 2017 and a round of applause,” Play the Game’s International Director, Jens Sejer Andersen, said in his motivation speech.
The Stepanovs were not present in Eindhoven, but accepted the award connected via a video-link from the US.
In his speech, Jens Sejer Andersen praised the Stepanovs for being symbols of the highest ethical practices in sport despite huge personal costs after becoming whistleblowers:
“You gathered, over a long period of time, convincing documentation through secret audio and video recording, in spite of the obvious personal risks. And you decided to come forward and step out of anonymity with your eyewitness accounts in Western TV; knowing well that this might lead to accusations of being renegades and national traitors, and provoke negative reactions from the public, the authorities, colleagues, friends and family - as it has certainly also happened in an unprecedented scale.”
To Hajo Seppelt, Jens Sejer Andersen said:
“Your work was carried out while observing the highest standards of the journalistic profession. It is always a temptation for a journalist to spice the story up with a little more drama than the documentation can necessarily bear, but you always let the documentation speak almost for itself, with shortness and sharpness that matches the TV format very well.”
The recipients of the award were decided by the governing board of Play the Game and the Danish Institute for Sports Studies.