Report: Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov denies paying Russian athlete hush money in doping scandal

The whistleblower who blew the lid off the Russian doping scandal that led to the country being banned from the 2018 Pyeongchang Games has accused Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov of paying a Russian athlete to keep quiet about the program after she was busted for banned substances, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Grigory Rodchenkov, who ran Russia’s anti-doping agency and admitted to supplying athletes with banned substances, detailed in his testimony to the International Olympic Committee how Russian biathlete Irina Starykh planned to go public with the country’s doping scheme before Prokhorov intervened with millions of rubles (hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars.) of hush money, the report states.

Prokhorov was the president of the Russian Biathlon Union at the time. He blasted the report through a representative.

“We categorically deny this story,” a representative for Prokhorov told the Wall Street Journal. “It is based on totally irresponsible hearsay and is complete nonsense.”

Starykh was a biathlete scheduled to compete for Russia at the Sochi Games in 2014. But weeks before the opening ceremony, she and teammate Ekaterina Iourieva failed a doping test in Austria, disqualifying them from competing.

Mikhail Prokhorov stands accused of paying hush money to keep the Russian doping scandal quiet. (AP)

Irina Rodionova, the doctor who allegedly directly administered steroids to Russian athletes, contacted Rodchenkov looking for a way to discredit the failed doping tests. But the damage was already done.

Rodinova relayed to Rodchenkov that Starykh planned to go public with Russia’s orchestrated doping program after she was busted, and that’s when Prokhorov got involved with the hush money, the report details. Starykh never went public.

She also denied taking any money from Prokhorov.

“Rodchenkov’s statement that I received some money from Prokhorov is a lie,” Starykh told Russian news agency TASS. “I didn’t receive any money.”

The NBA declined to comment on the Wall Street Journal report.

Rodchenkov, meanwhile, has fled Russia to the U.S. witness protection program in fear for his life since exposing the doping scandal. He left his family behind.