26 December 2017

Stop Russia’s Retaliation Towards a Whistleblower

Vladimir Putin has offered his latest cover-up story concerning testimony from the former Director of the Moscow Anti-Doping Center, Grigory Rodchenkov, who fled to the United States in November 2015 and then disclosed the single greatest conspiracy to cheat the Olympics through Russia’s state-sponsored doping program. Putin’s new, twisted narrative: FBI agents have “drugged” Rodchenkov to coax a false confession.

This would be comical if the stakes were not so high. As Dr. Rodchenkov’s lawyer, I can tell you that when the Russians are not busy accusing the U.S. of drugging Dr. Rodchenkov, they are lobbying U.S. government officials behind closed doors for his extradition back to Russia. If they succeeded, Dr. Rodchenkov would face death and torture at their hands.

The ban on Russia from the Olympics, which the world applauded so vigorously, has a tragic loophole with the potential to undo the effects of Dr. Rodchenkov’s truth-telling and to reward Putin’s continued denials and manipulation. It allows Russian athletes to compete as “neutrals,” and holds out the possibility that the Russian flag might fly at the closing ceremonies if Russia acts in a compliant manner.

Instead of embracing the clemency of this loophole, which they were lucky to receive, Russia has stepped up its retaliation against Dr. Rodchenkov. Ominously, on the very day that Dr. Rodchenkov was scheduled to be interviewed by Immigration officials in the U.S., Russia announced that it brought new politically motivated charges against him, this time for alleged drug trafficking.

Russia knows that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is planning to rely on Dr. Rodchenkov’s testimony at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, where dozens of banned Russian athletes have filed appeals from their personal lifetime bans for doping.  Obviously, Russia would like to silence Dr. Rodchenkov and make his testimony in these cases impossible.  Russia’s actions in retaliating against Dr. Rodchenkov are merely a further symptom of its refusal to accept the unanimous findings about Russia’s state-sponsored doping system.  For this reason, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has recently warned the Russians — for the third time — to leave Dr. Rodchenkov alone.

Yet, WADA’s powers are limited.  The real actor with power in this drama is the IOC, which could fully ban even “neutral” Russian athletes from the Olympics, prevent them from marching in closing ceremonies, or ban them from future games based on Russia’s continued intransigence.  Unfortunately, the IOC — who relied so prominently on Dr. Rodchenkov’s testimony in banning Russia from the Olympics — refuses to lift a finger to help him.

The IOC must act.  I asked to meet with its officials, including Thomas Bach, by traveling to Lausanne at my own expense. I made suggestions on how the IOC could end this campaign against Dr. Rodchenkov, by requiring that Russia cease its retaliation.  Their response:  I was told — point blank — that the IOC would take no action against Russia for retaliating against Dr. Rodchenkov.

I wonder why that is.  Perhaps if Dr. Rodchenkov were “no longer available,” the corrupt persons who fought against a full ban against Russia would be happy.  A problem would be solved. The currently unreported remainder of Dr. Rodchenkov’s evidence of international corruption and bribery would be buried.  As the IOC knows, Dr. Rodchenkov also has information about doping in soccer, so FIFA could ignore any evidence of doping by Russia’s soccer team. The IOC and FIFA could simply (and maybe happily) say, “we can no longer act against Russia and it’s athletes, as evidence has become unavailable, and we have no direct evidence to prove Russia’s involvement in Dr. Rodchenkov’s death.” This would be wholly consistent with the IOC’s double speak. But the world would know the truth.

My job is, among other things, to ensure Dr. Rodchenkov’s safety at all costs. Although he is a courageous man and fully committed to cooperation, as his lawyer I have to consider whether he should continue to compromise his own safety in order to provide evidence to the IOC.  One thing is certain:  if the IOC’s inaction is what whistleblowers can expect, no whistleblower should ever again come forward with information about fraud in the Olympics.  Had I known of the IOC’s cowardice, I might have urged a different path.

• This media statement was originally issued by Jim Walden, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov’s lawyer, on 26 December 2017 via email.

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