08/12/2020 - 17:26
With his head covered by a black balaclava and wearing dark glasses, Grigory Rodchenkov becomes nervous if any part of his face is seen. Exposing the state-sponsored Russian doping program forced him into hiding in the United States five years ago. Revealing his current identity is still too risky for this chemist-turned-whistleblower, even in a video interview from an undisclosed location. "Vladimir Putin wants me dead, " he told the AP agency.
"They are my security measures, because I face physical threats to be killed. And I want to live," he added.
The evidence presented by Rodchenkov, which has turned Putin's Russia into an outcast of the international sports world, continues to be used in cases against athletes, along with information from his former laboratory in Moscow.
"Putin is quite logical. He separates the opposition into two groups: enemies and traitors," Rodchenkov said. "I fall into the category of traitors and all traitors should be beheaded, suppressed, killed . So there is no doubt that I am wants dead ".
Grigory Rodchenkov, former head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory Photo: Netflix
This situation has not prevented him from documenting the story of his life in "The Rodchenkov Affair: How I Brought Down Putin's Secret Doping Empire" ("The Rodchenkov case: how I brought down Putin's secret doping empire"), a book in which he recalls how he conspired with his country to corrupt the sport and then tried to show regret by becoming a star witness.
Rodchenkov was the mastermind behind the "Duchess Cocktail" of steroids, anabolics, and cover-up, which turned Russia into a medal-winning machine at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, ranking at the top with 13 gold before the disqualifications will begin.
Russian spies made sure that the "Duchess" was not detected in the anti-doping tests. Agents of the Federal Security Service (FSB, for its acronym in Russian) used a hole in the wall of the laboratory in Sochi to exchange the samples containing steroids with clean urine overnight.
"For me, it was the end of doping control. If we can do it, why can't others?" Rodchenkov said.
Russian Grigory Rodchenkov, in hiding with a protected identity in the U.S. Photo: AP
The cover-up spread to the Summer Olympics, the Paralympics, the World Athletics Championships, and major sports.
Some Russians were banned from competing in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, as the International Olympic Committee opposes banning the participation of all athletes from a country.
Therefore, some Russian athletes can still compete internationally if they can prove that they do not dope, despite the fact that last year the country was banned from participating in all the major sporting events on the planet for four years by a new cover-up, including the manipulation of data obtained from the laboratory that Rodchenkov directed in Moscow.
"Sport is part of Putin's policy and to show the West how good Russia is," Rodchenkov said. " You cannot trust Russia. You cannot trust the certifying authorities and you cannot allow laboratories ( anti-doping) resume their activities for the foreseeable future. "
Especially now, according to Rodchenkov, with the constitutional changes that would allow Putin to run for two more six-year terms in 2024 and 2030. "Until 2036, there will be no confidence," said the chemist.
Vladimir Putin, watching skiing at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Photo: AP
But why now trust Rodchenkov when he presents a virtuous image, at odds with his deep collusion with the state to cheat.
"When you are a laboratory director and you have 50 employees and you are reporting to your top brass at the Ministry, I couldn't even think about morale, " he said, dismissing concerns about any long-term damage to the health of athletes who allowed themselves to be pumped up on steroids.
"It is extremely debatable and still baseless," he said. "We see the generation that is now in their late 70s and 80s, who are still ... in good physical condition after steroid programs."
Let's go back four decades and Rodchenkov was starting out in a Soviet system, learning how to manipulate doping controls.
"Honestly, I'm sorry, but I had great feelings of accomplishment," he said. “The athletes I helped (win) were extremely talented and I couldn't understand, with the coach, how he or she can lose to others. The only explanation was doping. Then, using some programs, we won gold medals. Honestly, it was like leveling the field. "
“Once again, 'moral' is perhaps a vocabulary of American life, but not Soviet or Russian. In the Soviet Union it was Soviet morality; in Russia there is no moral. "It helps when athletes comply.
Vitaly Stepanov and Yuliya Stepanova, along with their son Robert, in hiding in the United States after being informants for cases of Russian doping Photo: The New York Times
"This is the great problem of the militarization of sport in Russia, " Rodchenkov said. "They follow orders, they are disciplined but they cannot tell the truth, because they have taken an oath to the Russian state and consider foreigners as potential enemies or even real enemies. So in Russia there are three ways: lie, cheat and deny. "
Rodchenkov has had to convince the world that he has shed those roads and is clean. More of the cases it helped cover up could soon come to light after the World Anti-Doping Agency shared data from samples analyzed up to 2015 and manipulation that continued in 2019, which were retrieved from the Moscow testing lab at the center of the testing program. State-endorsed doping.
"The problem is that outsiders cannot understand what goes on inside sports," he said. Only whistleblowers can do that. But in corrupt countries you have to escape and we need to be preserved . "
For Rodchenkov, that means living a life constantly in fear of being recognized, as happened on a train in America.
"He was a student," he recalled. I said, 'Forget you saw me. Yes, it's me. Don't tell anyone . ' And I disappeared again . "
By Rob Harris of the AP agency.