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Tell-all book by former Russian anti-doping director set for release

Grigory Rodchenkov, the whistleblower in the Russian doping scandal, has written an autobiography

Former Moscow anti-doping lab director Grigory Rodchenkov has written an autobiography outlining his time working in the corrupt world of Russian doping control. The Rodchenkov Affair: How I Brought Down Putin’s Secret Doping Empire is a tell-all from Rodchenkov, who was the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary Icarus, which exposed Russia’s doping system in 2017. As the scandal‘s whistleblower, Rodchenkov feared for his life, and he has been in hiding for several years. His fears are not baseless, and a former head of the Russian Olympic Committee has publicly stated that Rodchenkov “should be shot.” The Daily Mail has published extracts from Rodchenkov’s autobiography, which will be released on Thursday.

Medals over morals

In the excerpts of the autobiography, Rodchenkov talks about Vladimir Putin‘s obsession with sports and his need for Russian success at the Olympic Games. Russia performed poorly at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, winning just three gold medals, and with the world heading to Sochi in 2014, Putin refused to be embarrassed at home. He combined the Ministry of Sport with the FSB (the country’s Federal Security Service) and created what Rodchenkov refers to as a “medals over morals” policy. Rodchenkov explains that since he became the director of the Moscow anti-doping centre in 2005, his job was to ensure that no Russian athletes ever tested positive.

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“In my 10 years in the director’s office,” Rodchenkov writes, “covering five summer and winter Olympics, not one athlete tested positive for doping substances during competition.” He says there was still “surprise out-of-competition testing” conducted by Russian doping control officers, but “schedules were known weeks beforehand, so athletes could either make themselves scarce or bribe a corrupt tester and substitute a urine sample.” Going into the Sochi Games, covering up positive tests was more important than ever for Rodchenkov’s team. 

Mariya Savinova and Ekaterina Zavyalova (Poistogova), two Russian 800m runners who were banned for doping.

Sochi 2014

For the Sochi Olympics, the FSB figured out how to open the “tamper-proof” urine bottles, which was “the key that opened the lock for Operation Sochi Resultat, the greatest-ever sporting fraud.” No Russians tested positive in Sochi, and Rodchenkov notes that their doping scheme made a significant difference in the country’s medal count. But that wasn’t enough. 

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“A big disappointment in the first week was that no athletes from any country were caught doping – we had a state-of-the-art doping control laboratory and no scalps to show for it,” Rodchenkov writes. They eventually caught some athletes, and in the final five days of the Games, eight positive tests were announced. “At an official dinner, a group of high-level IOC and WADA [the World Anti-Doping Agency] dignitaries called us the best Olympic laboratory ever. If they only knew.” Rodchenkov says the Russian tampering at the Sochi Games was the “the greatest fraud in Olympic history.” 

Saint Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square in Moscow, Russia

Leaving Russia

In 2015, a WADA investigation found Rodchenkov to be at the centre of a Russian doping scandal in track and field. He was forced to resign, and he quickly fled to the U.S. This is where he met with Bryan Fogel, the director of Icarus. He proceeded to tell the world about his role in Russian doping coverups, and after his situation became more precarious, he moved into hiding. 

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“I make no apologies for what I did,” he writes. “In the past, I did what I had to do; now I am doing what I choose to do. There is a world of difference.” This is just a brief summary of the information presented by the excerpts in The Daily Mail, and those are a fraction of the entire story that Rodchenkov will tell in his book, which will be available on July 30.