|Born||24 October 1958|
Moscow, Soviet Union
|Alma mater||Moscow State University|
|Awards||Order of Friendship|
Grigory Mikhailovich Rodchenkov (Russian: Григорий Михайлович Родченков; born 24 October 1958) is the former head of Russia's national anti-doping laboratory, the Anti-Doping Center. Rodchenkov is known for his involvement in the state-run doping program in Russia.
In November 2015, the Independent Commission of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had determined that Rodchenkov was “at the heart of the positive drug test coverup”, and that he had been directly involving with concealing positive tests and destroying 1,417 urine samples. Rodchenkov made headlines in 2016 after an interview to The New York Times exposing the doping program in Russia. Rodchenkov said he developed a three-drug cocktail of banned substances that he mixed with liquor and provided to dozens of athletes at Sochi Olympics. Rodchenkov's allegations were confirmed by the independent McLaren Report, leading to Russia's partial bans from the 2016 Summer Olympics and 2018 Winter Olympics. Since the revelations became public, Rodchenkov has been living in hiding.
Life and career
Grigory Rodchenkov graduated from Moscow State University and received his Ph.D. in chemistry. From July 2006 until November 2015 he worked as the director of the Anti-Doping Center, then Russia's only laboratory accredited by WADA.
Doping investigation in 2011
In 2011, Russian authorities opened an investigation against Rodchenkov's sister, champion runner Marina Rodchenkova, for buying and possessing banned drugs that she admitted she had intended to supply to athletes. Rodchenkov was also arrested in relation to this investigation and questioned on suspicion of sourcing and selling banned drugs. Charges against him were eventually dropped, but his sister was convicted and jailed in December 2012.
At the time Rodchenkov was the director of the Russia's national anti-doping laboratory. In June/July 2013, British journalist Nick Harris informed International Olympic Committee (IOC) and WADA about this criminal drug case and suspicions of Rodchenkov's involvement, but this information was apparently ignored. Rodchenkov claims that he was not jailed by Russian authorities in 2012 because they had earmarked him to dope their athletes at 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Doping scandal after 2014
In 2015, numerous accusations against Rodchenkov came from the WADA Independent Commission (IC). The IC established that Rodchenkov "not only accepted, but also requested money" from athletes in order to conceal their positive test results. "Rodchenkov had personally instructed and authorized the disposal of 1,417 samples" prior to the arrival in Moscow of a WADA audit team, which "directly defied and violated the WADA directives". Besides, "Rodchenkov instructed that all records showing the existence of the samples, as well as any documentation of the resulting analysis, be destroyed". Rodchenkov later admitted that he destroyed the samples on purpose in order to limit the extent of WADA's audit. The IC report concluded that Rodchenkov was "at the heart of the positive drug test coverup".
Shortly after release of the IC report, the Moscow Antidoping Center headed by Rodchenkov since 2006 was suspended by WADA. In January 2016, fearing for his safety, Rodchenkov boarded a flight from Moscow to Los Angeles and settled in the United States, where he is currently in the witness protection program. Two major Russian anti-doping executives, Vyacheslav Sinyev and Rodchenkov's friend Nikita Kamaev, unexpectedly died in the months after the doping scandal started.
Rodchenkov discussed doping at the Sochi Olympics with whistle-blower Vitaly Stepanov, who recorded 15 hours of their conversations without his knowledge. Rodchenkov also gave details to The New York Times, alleging that the Federal Security Service (FSB) was involved in covering up positive doping samples. In July 2016, the McLaren Report, an independent investigation commissioned by WADA found corroborating evidence after conducting witness interviews, reviewing thousands of documents, cyber analysis of hard drives, forensic analysis of urine sample collection bottles, and laboratory analysis of individual athlete samples, with "more evidence becoming available by the day." The Moscow laboratory "operated under State oversight and control" and "personnel were required to be part of the State directed system that enabled Russian athletes to compete while engaging in the use of doping substances".
On 9 December 2016, McLaren published the second part of his independent report. The investigation found that from 2011 to 2015, more than 1,000 Russian competitors in various sports (including summer, winter, and Paralympic sports) benefited from the cover-up. Emails indicate that they included five blind powerlifters, who may have been given drugs without their knowledge, and a fifteen-year-old.
According to McLaren's summary of the evidence provided by Dr. Rodchenkov, a key aspect of the doping scheme was the creation and use of a so-called "Sochi Duchess List". This list contained the names of 37 Russian athletes "whose samples were to be automatically swapped for their own clean urine stored in the FSB Command Center at Sochi". Those athletes' samples needed to be swapped because the athletes "had been authorised to use the cocktail of oxandrolone, methenolone and trenbolone during the Games". The Russian Olympic Committee insists that the Duchess List is nothing more than a competition schedule, which was prepared ahead of the Sochi Games for the purpose of identifying potential medalists.
During the Arbitration between Alexander Legkov v. International Olympic Committee (IOC), the IOC submits that "Dr. Rodchenkov's account of events is truthful and accurate", stating:
- Since Dr. Rodchenkov is no longer in Russia, he is now able to speak honestly with less fear of the consequences than if he had chosen to describe the existence and detail of the scheme while he was in Russia.
- Dr. Rodchenkov's statements are precise and clear. They are also very consistent and contain "no contradictions" between the various elements of his account.
- Dr. Rodchenkov only provided detailed information concerning particular athletes when he appears to have specific information relating to those athletes. In many cases, he simply mentions the athlete's presence on the Duchess List and the objective consequence of this, without seeking to add specific details.
- On every occasion when other evidence has been available, that evidence has "systematically corroborated" Dr. Rodchenkov's account
According to the IOC, minor inconsistencies in his testimony were considered unimportant. For example, the Duchess Cocktail which he developed was originally described in writing as a mixture of trenbolone, oxandrolone and methasterone; but was subsequently described as containing metenolone, not methasterone. Dr. Rodchenkov stated that the word "methasterone" in the original was a "typographical error".
Rodchenkov stated that he personally had never distributed the Duchess Cocktail, had never seen an athlete take the mixture or instruction being given to either them or to coaches to use the substance, and had never seen an athlete give a clear urine sample or "tamper with a doping sample.":70 Dr. Rodchenkov also stated that: (a) he "never observed first hand any bottles being opened or de-capped"; (b) accordingly, he did not know the "precise method" used to open the bottles; but (c) he did see a "table with instruments that resembled a dentist's tools".
According to the Arbitral Award in the arbitration between Alexander Legkov, Russia v. IOC, Dr. Rodchenkov's statement is called "a bare assertion which is uncorroborated by any contemporaneous documentary evidence. As such, the probative weight of this evidence is limited and the Panel is unable to find based on such evidence that the Athlete committed and ADRV".
Following the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded Rodchenkov the Order of Friendship. In 2016, after the doping allegations were widely reported, Putin called Rodchenkov a "man with a scandalous reputation."
The McLaren Report stated that Rodchenkov was "an integral part of the conspiracy to extort money from athletes in order to cover up positive doping test results". It also found that Rodchenkov was truthful with respect to the subject matter under investigation.
In November 2017, an IOC panel concluded: "Whatever his motivation may be and whichever wrongdoing he may have committed in the past, Dr. Rodchenkov was telling the truth when he provided explanations of the cover-up scheme that he managed."
On December 5, 2017, it was announced that Russia would compete as Olympic Athletes from Russia under a neutral flag at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Following the announcement, Jim Walden, an attorney for Rodchenkov, issued a statement applauding the decision by the IOC that sends "a powerful message that it will not tolerate state-sponsored cheating by any nation."
As the world has seen, Dr. Rodchenkov provided credible and irrefutable evidence of the Russian state-sponsored doping system," Walden said in a statement. "Russia's consistent denials lack any credibility, and its failure to produce all evidence in its possession only further confirms its high-level complicity.
Russia's doping program and Rodchenkov's work was highlighted in testimony before the U.S. Helsinki Commission (also known as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe) in Washington, DC on February 22, 2018. During that hearing, Walden discussed Rodchenkov's work in detail and suggested that the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Olympic Committee needed to do more to restore integrity to international sport.
Despite the information presented in the McLaren report, Russia was reinstated by the IOC after the conclusion of the 2018 Games. In an editorial published in the American newspaper USA Today, Rodchenkov expressed his dismay at the decision calling it "catastrophic.". His lawyer, Jim Walden, issued a statement on behalf of Rodchenkov saying that the decision to reinstate Russia is "the greatest treachery against clean athletes in Olympic history." Rodchenkov continues to fear for his life and remains in hiding under protective custody.
Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported that sports minister Pavel Kolobkov said the investigative committee found no evidence to support the state operated a doping system. That committee seeks Rodchenkov's extradition from the United States, where he is in witness protection. Despite assertions from Russian officials that no system existed, "empirical evidence is totally to the contrary," IOC member Dick Pound said, adding, "so I think what we're seeing in the Russian press is for domestic consumption."
Lawsuit by Mikhail Prokhorov
Following Russia's banning from the 2018 Winter Olympics and the stripping of medals from multiple Russian athletes, Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, controlling owner of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, agreed to finance a defamation lawsuit in New York against Rodchenkov. The suit claims that Rodchenkov defamed three Russian biathletes — Olga Zaytseva, Yana Romanova and Olga Vilukhina — when Rodchenkov included them on a list of athletes who took performance-enhancing drugs as part of a state-controlled program that corrupted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The women, who were stripped of the silver medal they won as part of a relay team, are seeking $10 million each in damages.
In April 2018, Rodchenkov, through his lawyer, Jim Walden, countersued Prokhorov under New York's anti-SLAPP law claiming that Prokhorov's suit was frivolous and intended to limit individuals from exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech. According to published reports, the countersuit is likely to seek the names of other individuals who are financing the lawsuit against Rodchenkov as well as information about the assets of Prokhorov.
"Prokhorov has assets here," Walden said. "We need to go about expeditiously securing them, so he doesn't go about taking them out of the country. You can expect that's what we're going to be looking at next."
Walden stated that he believes Prokhorov's lawsuit was intentionally designed to uncover Rodchenkov's whereabouts in the United States and allow agents of the Russian government to find him.
Rodchenkov was featured in the 2017 Netflix documentary Icarus, directed by Bryan Fogel. In Icarus, Rodchenkov describes his involvement in a conspiracy to help Russian athletes to beat doping tests in the Olympic Games. On March 4, 2018, Icarus won Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
William Hill Sports Book of the Year
Rodchenkov was the 2020 winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year for his book The Rodchenkov Affair: How I Brought Down Putin’s Secret Doping Empire. He was, however, unable to collect the £30,000 prize money as he has been placed under a witness protection scheme in the United States.
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