|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, which was suspended by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in November 2015 for facilitating Russia's elaborate state-sponsored doping program. Rodchenkov helped develop and distribute banned performance-enhancing substances for thousands of Russian Olympians from 2005 to 2015. He made headlines in 2016 as a whistleblower, helping expose the complex and extensive nature of Russia's doping program. His revelations were confirmed by the independent McLaren Report, leading to Russia's partial ban from the 2016 Summer Olympics and total ban from the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Rodchenkov is currently in witness protection in the United States, as he is believed to be the target of Russian agents seeking retaliation for his whistleblowing. Two major Russian anti-doping executives, including Rodchenkov's friend Nikita Kamaev, suspiciously and unexpectedly died in the months before Rodchenkov went public with his story.
Life and career
In 2005, Rodchenkov became the director of the Anti-Doping Center, Russia's national anti-doping laboratory. He and his sister, champion runner Marina Rodchenkova, were under investigation in 2011 for trafficking performance-enhancing substances for Russian athletes and extorting them to conceal positive drug tests. To avoid arrest, Rodchenkov attempted suicide and was hospitalized with a diagnosis of a paranoid personality disorder. Charges against him were eventually dropped by Russian officials in exchange for his cooperation in leading Russia's doping program for the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Rodchenkov claims the orders for his release came from Russian president Vladimir Putin himself. Rodchenkov's sister, however, was convicted and sentenced to a year and a half in prison.
British journalist Nick Harris claims to have contacted the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with allegations about the laboratory in early July 2013. WADA officials and IOC members conducted two subsequent interviews of Rodchenkov on 26 March 2015 and 30 June 2015, where on both occasions, he admitted to intentionally destroying the 1,417 samples in order to limit the extent of WADA's audit and to reduce any potential adverse findings from subsequent analysis by another WADA accredited laboratory. In November 2015, the laboratory was suspended by the WADA following a report alleging state-sponsored doping in Russia. In February 2016, two former directors of RUSADA, Vyacheslav Sinyev and Nikita Kamaev, mysteriously died. Fearing for his safety, Rodchenkov fled to the United States.
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 had he 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 misprint.
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." 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 be banned from 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 WADA for international competition in September 2018. 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.
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