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Whistleblower lawyer slams IOC over Russia ‘deal’

AFP | New York |

The lawyer for Russian doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov slammed the International Olympic Committee today, accusing the powerful sports body of preparing to lift sanctions at the end of next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Jim Walden had initially praised the IOC following its decision in early December to suspend Russia from the February 9-25 Winter Olympics for a vast state-supported doping program, hailing the move as a “strong message.”

Since then however, with individual Russian athletes being allowed to compete in South Korea on a case-by-case basis as “Olympic athletes from Russia”, Walden has grown sceptical about the IOC’s commitment to punishment.

Walden said he believed IOC President Thomas Bach had already brokered a secret deal with Russia to allow them to compete in the Olympics.

“Immediately after the IOC decision, I had said I was happy, but that was before we saw the fine print, and also before Russia reacted to the decisions,” Walden told AFP, referring to “aggressive denials” by Russian officials, threats to Rodchenkov and the release of IOC and World Anti- Doping Agency emails believed to have been obtained by Russian hackers.

“It is shocking to me that given everything that Russia has done since the IOC decision, it’s clear that Thomas Bach is going to let them back in the Olympics,” Walden said.

“If there was ever a circumstance when to continue the suspension, this is it — but mark my words: Bach is going to let them back in at the closing ceremony,” he added.

“Every fan, every clean athlete, every corporate sponsor, should be outraged.”

Walden was also critical of world football’s governing body FIFA for the pace at which they have addressed allegations of doping in Russian football, with this year’s World Cup finals in Russia due to kick off in June.

“FIFA is considering hiring an independent investigator to follow the facts, I understand that the process is in the works, many of these proceedings have not been timely,” Walden said.

“It is hard to imagine that if there was a finding of doping at this stage, that FIFA could do much about it.”

Walden meanwhile confirmed that Rodchenkov, who is living in hiding in the United States, would give evidence by telephone or video link at two upcoming hearings being held by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.

Walden said Rodchenkov remained fearful for his life and added that it was “very difficult and almost impossible” for him to have any “meaningful contact” with his family members in Russia.