doping

Getty Images

Grigory Rodchenkov, Russian doping whistleblower, still lives in fear

1 Comment

His head covered in a black balaclava, adjusting dark goggles obscuring his eyes, Grigory Rodchenkov grows anxious if any part of his face can be seen.

Exposing Russia’s state-sponsorship doping scheme forced Rodchenkov into hiding in the United States five years ago. Revealing his current identity is still too risky for the chemist turned whistleblower, even in a video interview from an undisclosed location.

“It’s my security measures because I have physical threats to be assassinated,” Rodchenkov told The Associated Press. “And I want to live.”

Evidence from Rodchenkov that has already turned Vladimir Putin‘s Russia into international sporting outcasts continues to be used in cases against athletes along with data from his former laboratory in Moscow.

“Putin, he is quite logical. He separates opposition in two ways — enemies … betrayers,” Rodchenkov said. “I am falling in the betrayers’ category and all betrayers should be beheaded, cut, dead. So there is no doubt that he wants me to be dead.”

It has not deterred him from documenting his life story in “The Rodchenkov Affair: How I Brought Down Putin’s Secret Doping Empire,” revisiting how he conspired with his country to corrupt sports and then tries to show contrition by turning star witness.

Rodchenkov was the brains behind the Duchess cocktail of anabolic steroids and cover-up that turned Russia into a medal machine at the home Olympics in Sochi in 2014, topping the standings with 13 gold medals before disqualifications.

Russian spies ensured the Duchess would not be detected in doping tests as FSB agents used a hole in the wall of the Sochi laboratory to swap out the dirty samples with clean urine at night.

“For me, it was the end of doping control,” Rodchenkov said. “If we can do it, why others cannot?”

The doping cover-up extended beyond the Winter Olympics, into the Summer Games, Paralympics, world track and field championships and every major sport.

Some Russians were barred from competing at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games and 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games as the International Olympic Committee remains opposed to blanket bans on countries.

So Russian athletes can still compete on the international stage if they can show they are clean, despite a four-year ban from major international sporting events being imposed on the nation last year for a fresh cover-up, including tampering with data gained from Rodchenkov’s former lab in Moscow.

“Sport is a part of Putin’s politics and showing to the West how good Russia is,” Rodchenkov said. “You cannot trust Russia. You cannot trust the certification authorities, and (anti-doping) laboratories cannot be allowed to be restored within the foreseeable future.”

Especially now, according to Rodchenkov, following constitutional changes allowing Putin to run for two more six-year terms, in 2024 and 2030,

“Until 2036,” Rodchenkov said, “no trust.”

But why now trust Rodchenkov as he presents a virtuous image at odds with his deep collusion with the state to cheat?

“When you are laboratory director and you have 50 employees and you are reporting to your high ups at the ministry, I could not even think about morals,” he said, dismissing concerns about any long-term damage to the health of athletes he allowed to be pumped with steroids.

“It’s extremely debatable and still ungrounded,” he said. “We see the generation who is now in the end of their lives of 70s and 80s, which are still … in a good physical condition after steroid programs.”

Go back four decades and Rodchenkov was starting out in a Soviet system learning how to manipulate doping controls.

“I had honestly, I’m sorry, but I had huge feelings of accomplishment,” he said. “Those athletes I helped to (win) were extremely talented and I could not understand, with the coach, how he or she may lose to others. The only explanation was doping. Then using some programs, we won gold medals. Honestly it was like leveling the field.

“Again, ‘morals’ is maybe vocabulary from American life but not from Soviet and Russian. In (the) Soviet (Union) it was the Soviet moral, in Russia there is no morals.”

It helps when the athletes are compliant.

“This is the huge problem of the militarization of Russia sport,” Rodchenkov said. “They follow orders, they are disciplined but they cannot tell the truth because they have given the oath to the Russian state and consider foreigners as potential enemies or even actual enemies. That’s why in Russia there are three ways – lying, cheating and denying.”

Rodchenkov has had to convince the world he has shed those ways and is coming clean. More of the cases he helped to cover-up could soon come to light after the World Anti-Doping Agency shared data – of samples tested up to 2015, and tampering that continued into 2019 – that was retrieved from the Moscow testing lab at the heart of the state-backed doping program.

“The problem is that the people from outside cannot understand what is going on inside sports,” he said. “Only whistleblowers could do that. But in corrupted countries you have to escape and we need to be preserved.”

For Rodchenkov that means living a life constantly in fear of being recognized as happened on a train in the US.

“It was a student,” he recalled. “I told him, `Forget you are meeting me, yes it’s me, don’t tell anyone.’ … I disappeared again.”

MORE: Russia track and field faces expulsion if it misses deadline

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Russia track and field faces expulsion if it misses deadline

Getty Images
1 Comment

Russia is set to be expelled from membership in World Athletics if it does not make outstanding payments of more than $6 million before Aug. 15, which it has promised to do.

Russian Minister of Sport Oleg Matytsin promised to make the overdue payment by Aug. 15, according to a letter sent to World Athletics on Thursday.

An expulsion could continue to keep Russian athletes from being allowed to compete as neutrals, which they’ve been able to do until recently. The nation was first banned in 2015 for its anti-doping problems.

When Russia failed to pay its fine by a July 1 deadline, the program allowing Russians to compete internationally was frozen.

The fine was imposed after the Russia track federation president admitted wrongdoing on behalf of the federation under its previous leadership.

The federation had been accused of providing forged documents to give an athlete an alibi for being unavailable for doping testing. The president resigned two weeks ago.

Rune Andersen, who chairs a taskforce working on the Russia situation, said there has been “very little in terms of changing the culture of Russian athletics” in the past five years.

The taskforce spent “an enormous amount of time and effort trying to help RusAF [Russia’s track and field federation] reform itself and Russian athletics, for the benefit of all clean Russian athletes,” Andersen said in a press release, but the response was inadequate.

World Athletics president Seb Coe said that a final decision on expulsion would normally be scheduled for next year, but the taskforce recommended a special meeting as soon as possible to vote on it if the payment isn’t made.

If Russia is expelled, it would be a “lengthy process” and “very difficult” to regain membership, Coe said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

MORE: No U.S. Track and Field Championships for first time in 120-plus years

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Elijah Manangoi, world 1500m champion, provisionally suspended

Elijah Manangoi
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Elijah Manangoi, the 2017 World 1500m champion, became the latest Kenyan to be suspended over anti-doping violations.

Manangoi has been provisionally suspended in a case of whereabouts failures, the Athletics Integrity Unit, track and field’s doping watchdog organization, announced Thursday. Athletes must provide doping officials with their whereabouts, or locations to be available for out-of-competition testing.

Three missed tests in a 12-month span can lead to a suspension, even if an athlete has never tested positive.

The Athletics Integrity Unit did not disclose details about Manangoi’s case, such as if or when he has a hearing to determine anything beyond the provisional ban.

Manangoi was unable to defend his world title in 2019 due to injury. Since July 2017, he is the only man to defeat Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot in the 1500m, doing so five times. Cheruiyot won the 2019 World title and is the Olympic favorite.

Other Kenyan distance-running stars have been banned in recent years for failing drug tests.

Rita Jeptoo had Boston and Chicago Marathon titles stripped, and Jemima Sumgong was banned after winning the Rio Olympic marathon after both tested positive for EPO. Asbel Kiprop, a 2008 Olympic 1500m champion and a three-time world champ, was banned four years after testing positive for EPO in November 2017. Wilson Kipsang, a former marathon world-record holder, was earlier in July banned four years for whereabouts failures.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Christian Coleman banned after disputed missed drug test