Olympics: Russia ban has whistleblower in hiding living in fear

By Steve Keating
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A view through a fence shows the Russian Olympic Committee headquarters in Moscow

A view through a fence shows the Russian Olympic Committee headquarters in Moscow, Russia December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow's anti-doping laboratory turned whistleblower, will be looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life, his lawyer said on Tuesday after Russia was banned from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.

Rodchenkov, whose revelations of state-sponsored doping and cover-up at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics triggered investigations by both the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Olympic Committee, praised the IOC decision - although he remains in hiding and in fear for his life.

"I hope the situation improves from here, but the Kremlin has proven to be a determined and difficult adversary for Grigory," said Jim Walden, Rodchenkov's lawyer, during a conference call. "I think the future ahead is hard to chart but for sure, without any doubt in my mind, I can say he knows he is going to be looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life."

Rodchenkov's account, first published in the New York Times, led to the establishment of Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren’s independent report for WADA.

The IOC followed up with its own investigations the findings of the Schmid Commission released on Tuesday, confirming "the systematic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system in Russia."

While the IOC announcement vindicated Rodchenkov, he remains in hiding in the United States.

Last month, Russia's investigative committee said it planned to ask the United States to extradite Rodchenkov.

Two other senior former Russian anti-doping officials, Nikita Kamayev and Vyacheslav Sinev, died suddenly within weeks of each other in February 2016.

Walden said his client is also very concerned about his family in Russia, which authorities might use in an attempt to retaliate against him.

"I think it is fair to say Grigory has carried a very heavy burden," said Walden. "His ability to communicate with the outside world is very, very limited.

"As long as Russia refuses to accept responsibility, no one in the world of sports will believe that the next caper isn't being planned."

The IOC and WADA have warned Russian officials that retaliation in any form against Rodchenkov or his family is unacceptable, but Walden said both organisations could do more to express their support publicly.

"It is my understanding that they did convey to the Russian federation that it was completely inappropriate for them to be taking steps they are taking retaliating against a whistleblower, opening an investigation, seeking his extradition," said Walden. "This is merely an attempt to silence him and obviously he was not going to in any way shape or form change his determination based on that conduct.

"Ultimately, Russia made this situation worse for itself and worse for its athletes, because my client is convinced that if they simply announced from the beginning what WADA expected of them which was to confess, cooperate and reform, that many Russian athletes would be playing South Korea this coming February."


(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Hugh Lawson)