New York (AFP) – Russian sport doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, in hiding in the United States over retaliation fears, answered a defamation lawsuit Monday with a countersuit against Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and others.
Rodchenkov, who said in a statement through his lawyers “I am healthy and well and also well protected,” filed a motion in New York State Court to dismiss a lawsuit by three Russian biathletes stripped of 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic relay silver medals by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Claiming the lawsuit was meant to intimidate and silence him, the 59-year-old former Russian anti-doping laboratory director also countersued the women — Olga Zaitseva, Olga Vilukhina and Yana Romanova — and Prokhorov, the NBA Brooklyn Nets majority owner and a former Russian biathlon federation president, plus five other unnamed financial backers of the lawsuit.
“Today the hunter becomes the hunted,” Rodchenkov attorney Jim Walden said. “I have every confidence this lawsuit was not filed to vindicate these athletes but to find the location of Dr. Rodchenkov.”
Walden noted that if Rodchenkov was required to testify, “we would have the deposition remotely so the Russians could not find him.”
Rodchenkov provided key evidence leading to Russian suspensions from global sport, including a ban from competing as Russia or under the Russian flag at February’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Rodchenkov described his role in the conspiracy to help Russian athletes evade doping tests in the film “Icarus,” which won an Academy Award in March for Best Documentary.
Since he fled Russia, Rodchenkov has been in hiding in the wake of unexpected deaths of two colleagues amid fears he could be targeted after the humiliating revelations of state-sponsored doping.
Rodchenkov also took issue with Russian reports he has backed off his claims in the wake of Court of Arbitration for Sport rulings overturning some, but not all, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) bans based upon his testimony.
“I continue to cooperate with criminal and anti-doping authorities,” Rodchenkov said. “Despite Russia’s recent disinformation campaign, all the information I gave to the IOC and WADA was completely accurate and I do not retract a word of it.”
The filings come after the March poisonings of a former Russian spy and his daughter in England with a nerve agent. British officials have blamed Russia but Russian leaders deny the allegation.
“These latest poisonings are just the most recent examples of Russia’s criminality,” Walden said.
Walden would not say if security measures were tightened around Rodchenkov in the wake of the England poisonings except to say, “We do believe he is well protected and he is safe,” and that safety measures around him “are evolving all of the time.”
“We would like there to be a day when normalcy returns to his life,” Walden said. “We do believe there is a future for him where he is safe and secure, where he can be a voice for reform and assist in improving anti-doping reform and policies.”
– Russian double standard? –
Walden said the recent CAS decisions supported, rather than weakened, Rodchenkov’s revelations.
“The state-sponsored scheme has not been cast in doubt. It has been confirmed,” Walden said. “These decisions corroborate Dr. Rodchenkov’s testimony.”
And he said the Russians know Rodchenkov has more information regarding global sports officials, calling a raid on International Biathlon Union offices in Austria “just the first step” and adding, “They know he can bring down many powerful and conflicted enablers.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, Walden said, to allow for more US-based assets that might be recoverable once a detailed list is compiled.
Walden said he does not seek support from the IOC, saying, “They refuse to stand up for him and they refuse to stand up against Russia,” calling that “yet another self inflicted wound showing there are two standards in international sport, one for Russia and one for the rest of the world.”