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Russian doping whistleblower countersues scandalized Olympic biathletes and oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, claiming their libel suit was an attempt to reveal his whereabouts
- Former Moscow lab director Grigory Rodchenkov has been living in hiding in the United States, fearful of retribution since revealing Russia’s doping scheme
- The Russian government has repeatedly undermined his claims about the complex doping scheme that has been corroborated by several investigations
- Prokhorov, the owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, financially supported a libel lawsuit against Rodchenkov filed by three biathletes stripped of Olympic medals
- Rodchenkov seeks a dismissal of the libel suit, and filed a countersuit against Prokhorov, the former president of Russia’s biathlon federation
- Rodchenkov’s lawyers say Prokhorov’s support of the biathletes is part of a nefarious scheme to flush their client out from hiding
- The countersuit is called an anti-SLAPP lawsuit – ‘Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation’ – which is designed to protect whistleblowers
- Through a spokeswoman, Prokhorov denied the allegations against him
Former Moscow lab director Grigory Rodchenkov has been living in hiding in the United States, fearful of Russian retribution since revealing his country’s elaborate scheme to cheat at the Sochi Games
The whistleblower who exposed Russian cheating at the 2014 Olympics filed a motion Monday to dismiss a libel lawsuit against him, which his lawyers portrayed as a ploy led by the Russian owner of the Brooklyn Nets to reveal his whereabouts.
Former Moscow lab director Grigory Rodchenkov has been living in hiding in the United States, fearful of Russian retribution since revealing his country’s elaborate scheme to cheat at the Sochi Games.
Rodchenkov seeks dismissal of the libel lawsuit supported by Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov on behalf of three Russian biathletes – Olga Zaytseva, Yana Romanova and Olga Vilukhina – whose medals from the Sochi Games were stripped for doping.
He also filed a countersuit against Prokhorov, the former president of Russia’s biathlon federation. Rodchenkov’s lawyers say Prokhorov’s support of the biathletes is part of a scheme to flush out Rodchenkov from hiding.
‘We have every confidence that this litigation was not started to vindicate the athlete, but to try to locate and identify Dr. Rodchenkov’s location,’ said his attorney, Jim Walden.
Through a representative, Prokhorov denied the accusations.
‘We categorically deny the accusations in this suit, but instead of trading in rumors and baseless accusations by the media, we will await our fair hearing in the court of law where facts and evidence will take their rightful place as the only means of determining the truth,’ Prokhorov’s spokeswoman told the Daily Mail.
The whistleblower who exposed Russia’s scheme to cheat at the 2014 Olympics has filed a motion to dismiss a libel lawsuit brought on behalf of three Russian biathletes whose medals were stripped from the Sochi Games for doping. Lawyers for whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov also filed a lawsuit Monday, April 30, 2018, against Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. They say Prokhorov’s support of the biathletes in the suit is little more than a ruse to reveal Rodchenkov’s whereabouts. Rodchenkov has been living in hiding in the United States, fearful of retribution from Russia
General view of a building of the Federal state budgetary institution ‘Federal Scientific Center of Physical Culture and Sport’ which houses the Moscow Anti doping Centre, the laboratory headed by Grigory Rodchenkov in Moscow, Russia on November 11, 2015
Silver medallists Russia’s Olga Zaitseva, Yana Romanova, Ekaterina Shumilova and Olga Vilukhina pose during the Women’s Biathlon 4×6 km Relay Medal Ceremony at the Sochi medals plaza during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 22, 2014. Zaitseva, Romanova, and Vilukhina sued Rodchenkov for libel in the U.S. after they were banned for doping
Russia’s Iana Romanova (pictured) is one of three biathletes suing Rodchenkov for libel
Walden said if any depositions are needed in the cases, they will happen remotely so nobody can find Rodchenkov.
‘I think it would be foolhardy for us to lump ourselves into a false sense of security’ regarding Rodchenkov’s safety, Walden said.
Rodchenkov, the former director of the Moscow anti-doping lab, released a statement saying he is ‘healthy, well and well-protected.’
The countersuit is called an anti-SLAPP lawsuit – ‘Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation’ – that is designed to protect whistleblowers who get sued for making libelous remarks.
A representative for Prokhorov told The Associated Press: ‘We categorically deny the accusations in this suit.
‘But instead of trading in rumors and baseless accusations via the media, we will await our fair hearing in a court of law, where facts and evidence will take their rightful place as the only means of determining the truth.’
The Russian government has repeatedly undermined Rodchenkov’s claims about the complex doping scheme that has been corroborated by several investigations and that led to a ban of the Russian Olympic Committee from this year’s Olympics.
Although Prokhorov (right) once ran against Vladimir Putin (left) for President of Russia, the latter ultimately hired the former to preside over the country’s biathlon team before the 2016 Sochi Winter Games
The International Olympic Committee allowed 168 Russian athletes who passed a detailed vetting process to compete in Pyeongchang as ‘Olympic Athletes from Russia.’
In February, during the Olympics, Russia appealed 39 doping cases, 28 of which were overturned after the Court of Arbitration for Sport found insufficient evidence of an anti-doping violation. Those athletes were not completely exonerated, and 11 remained disqualified. CAS did not hear the biathletes’ cases.
Rodchenkov’s testimony was central to the CAS hearings, and Russia portrayed the 28 overturned cases as evidence that Rodchenkov’s credibility was in doubt.
Russian President Vladimir Putin previously called Rodchenkov a ‘jerk.’ The 65-year-old leader acknowledged that Russian athletes were caught doping, but has denied any state involvement, instead blaming foreign interests.
Walden said the cases were overturned on technicalities and were more about the ‘high burden of proof’ required in a CAS decision.
He said filing the libel lawsuit against Rodchenkov in the United States was ‘probably the stupidest thing someone could’ve done.’
‘We have a court system where someone cares about the truth,’ Walden said. ‘Unlike the CAS and IOC processes, a court will look at all the evidence, and won’t lose the forest from the trees. … We very much look forward to prosecuting this.’
Russia’s Olga Vilukhina shoots at the range to win gold in the Women’s Biathlon 4×6 km Relay at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center during the Sochi Winter Olympics
Rodchenkov’s claims were corroborated by independent investigations by the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Olympic Committee, the later of which penalized 43 Russian athletes for doping in Sochi, stripping the country of 13 medals. Furthermore, Russia was barred from sending a delegation to the ongoing Winter Games in South Korea, although nearly 200 were cleared to participate as neutral athletes.
Like many of the Russian athletes who were found to be doping in 2016, Olga Zaytseva, Yana Romanova and Olga Vilukhina did not test positive.
But according to the document outlining the I.O.C.’s reasoning behind its decision to punish Zaytseva, the ‘scheme is by nature and purpose elusive.’
‘The swapping of the samples had precisely the purpose of making direct evidence of an antidoping rule violation disappear [by destroying the true samples],’ the document read. ‘Certain types of direct objective evidence are therefore, and by definition, not available.’
The I.O.C. has not published its reasoning for penalizing Romanova and Vilukhina.
Prokhorov recently sold a 49 percent stake in the Nets to Joe Tsai, the executive vice chairman and co-founder of the Alibaba Group. Tsai will have an option to become the controlling owner in 2021.
Olga Vilukhina is one of three Russian biathletes suing Rodchenkov for libel in the U.S.
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