Olympics: Whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov praises IOC's banning of Russia over doping scandal

The Doping Control Station in the Laura Biathlon Center during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
The Doping Control Station in the Laura Biathlon Center during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The whistleblower who played a central role in the doping programme which led to Russia's expulsion from the Winter Olympics, welcomed the International Olympic Committee's (IOC's) ban on Wednesday (Dec 6), his lawyer said.

Grigory Rodchenkov has been living in hiding in the United States since lifting the lid on the intricate workings of the state-supported scheme to cheat athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

His lawyer, Jim Walden, told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday that the former doping laboratory chief was "proud of the work that the IOC has done".

"Today's decision sends a powerful message that the IOC has joined the world community in saying that Russia's cheating needs to be severely sanctioned," Walden said.

"It was the most elaborate and sophisticated doping system in the history of sports. If it did not carry the most significant sanction, it would simply have emboldened Russia and other countries who don't respect the rules."

Walden said, however, that Rodchenkov remained concerned for family and friends who remain in Russia, fearing the possibility of reprisals.

"He is enormously concerned for his family, whom he had to leave in Russia," Walden said. "He hopes that the world will come together to watch out over them in case there are attempts to retaliate against them."

Rodchenkov's opportunity to communicate with the outside world was "very limited", Walden said, adding that the former drug-testing chief had "good and bad days".

Two former colleagues of Rodchenkov died suddenly in February 2016, just months after news of the doping scandal first erupted after a bombshell World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) report.

Walden told reporters on Wednesday that Rodchenkov was resigned to living in fear for the rest of his life.

"My hope is that the situation improves from here, but the Kremlin has proved to be a very determined and difficult adversary for Grigory," Walden said. "The future ahead is hard to chart but for sure, he knows, without any doubt, that he's going to be looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life."

Walden meanwhile said Rodchenkov bore no ill will towards Russia or clean Russian athletes, adding he was motivated only by a desire to see effective anti-doping reforms across world sport.

"He's gratified that the IOC has taken a bold step with respect to the overwhelming evidence of the Russian Federation doping program in this instance," Walden said. "But he knows the Russians are not alone and there are other state-sponsored systems. His only hope is that this is the first step in a long journey towards vindicating clean sports forever."

Wada recently obtained an internal database from Russia's drug-testing laboratory when the doping programme was at its peak.

Walden said the files would allow Wada investigators to "connect the dots" and uncover the true scale of Russian doping.

"We're now talking about thousands and thousands of dirty samples that were covered up," Walden said. "Wada has what it needs to show dirty athletes not just from Sochi, but from Beijing and London and various other types of sporting events."

Wada's obtaining of the database left Russia with a choice of two options.

"It can admit what happened and prove to the world it can reform," Walden said. "Or it can force Wada to follow this trail and identify every single athlete who has tested positive and therefore who is the beneficiary of the Russian doping system."