LONGLISTED FOR THE WILLIAM HILL SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR PRIZE 2020 'Reads like a thriller, or even a spy novel...Walsh keeps you gripped' Rosamund Urwin, Sunday Times 'A turbulent but ultimately inspiring tale. The candour...israre and gripping' Matt Dickinson, The Times
It was the story that shocked the world: Russian athletics was revealed to be corrupt from top to bottom, with institutionalised doping used to help the nation's athletes win medals they did not deserve. But the full story of the couple who blew the whistle has never been told - until now.
When Russian anti-doping official Vitaly Stepanov met the young 800m athlete Yuliya Rusanova, for him it was love at first sight. Within two months, they were married. But there was a problem – in fact, there were lots of problems. She admitted she was doping and that everyone else was doping, and she let him know that she came from a dark place …
It could all have brought a very swift end to a very hasty marriage, but gradually the Stepanovs began to realise that whatever you did, the system in Russia was stacked against you. In the end, the only ones they could rely upon were each other. Fully aware of the risks they were taking, they decided to turn the tables on those who had manipulated them and cheated the sporting world.
The result of their investigative work sent shockwaves around the planet and led to Russia’s athletes being banned from world sport, while the Stepanovs themselves had to go into hiding. The Russian Affair is a gripping true-life drama that at times reads like a spy novel and at others like an epic love story. But, at the centre of it all, is a quietly determined couple who knew that if they stood together they could shine a light on a corrupt system and bring it crashing to the ground.
David Walsh is chief sportswriter with The Sunday Times. A four-time Irish Sportswriter of the Year and four-time UK Sportswriter of the Year, he was also named the 2012 British Journalist of the year. Coauthor of L.A. Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong and author of From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France, he is married with seven children and lives in Suffolk, England.
'An extraordinary and unlikely romance; and a remarkable tale not just of love but of courage....[Stepanov's] persistence in becoming one of sport’s most remarkable whistleblowers...is staggering given everything set against him. When David Walsh, the chief sports writer of The Sunday Times, set out to meet the Stepanovs for the first time, he thought he was writing a doping story...but in The Russian Affair, he has ended up with so much more. The extraordinary, lurching relationship between Vitaly and Yuliya lies at the heart of a turbulent but ultimately inspiring tale. The candour with which they have allowed Walsh to tell their story is rare and gripping.'
– Matt Dickinson, The Times
'Vitaly Stepanov and Yuliya Stepanova are the doping tester and the drug-taking runner whose unlikely love for one another gives them the moral strength to act as whistleblowers.'
– Nick Greenslade, Sunday Times, Sport Books of the Year
'More than one review has likened Walsh’s book to a Cold War thriller, the true story of the committed anti-doping official who falls in love and marries a star 800m runner who turns out an admitted drugs cheat. The book is a journey through deception, betrayal, infidelity, and an eventual escape from the country.'
– Damien O'Meara, RTE
'What makes this account of Russia's state-sponsored doping so utterly compelling is that at its heart it is a love story about the young couple who blew the lid on the scandal. It is a tale of the implausible, complex and fractious relationship between Vitaly Stepanov and Yuliya Rusanova... The story reads like a fast-paced thriller... This masterful work is so much more than a story about drugs, cover-ups and corruption... A beautiful record of a compelling and emotional journey.'
– James Restall, The Times, Sports Books of the Year