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Banned Russian Athletes File Libel Lawsuit Against Doping Whistle-Blower

Former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov now lives in the United States.
Former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov now lives in the United States.

Three Russian athletes have sued the whistle-blower whose revelations about doping in Russia led to hundreds of athletes being banned, saying he lied and destroyed their careers.

The athletes on February 20 filed a $30 million libel lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan against Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director who lives in hiding in the United States.

Rodchenkov's lawyer, Jim Walden, called the lawsuit "a silly stunt with no chance of survival" and said "it will in no way affect Dr. Rodchenkov's brave decision to continue to tell the truth and testify against wrong doers."

The New York Times reported that Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian tycoon who owns the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, is helping to finance the lawsuit.

Rodchenkov, who is under U.S. protection, fled to the United States after producing documents obtained during his years as Russia's anti-doping lab director which describe an elaborate ruse by Russia and its athletes to evade doping tests.

Rodchenkov said the evidence supports his allegations that Russia perpetrated a urine-swapping scheme at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and that the doping scheme extended to Russia's track and field athletes.

His account has been corroborated by independent investigations since 2015 conducted the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The revelations led to Russia's Olympic Committee being banned from the Winter Olympics in South Korea this month and bans on dozens of individual athletes, with only 168 Russians being allowed to compete as "Olympic Athletes from Russia" after they passed an Olympic vetting process.

The lawsuit in New York was filed on behalf of former Olympic silver medalists and now-retired biathletes Olga Zaitseva, Yana Romanova, and Olga Vilukhina.

It maintains that Rodchenkov's allegations are false and "ultimately warped history and stripped the athletes of the lifelong accomplishments they had earned."

According to the lawsuit, the silver medals the biathletes won in a relay event at the 2014 Olympics were stripped by the IOC because of Rodchenkov's "defamatory statements."

"All of this professional carnage was based on the word of Rodchenkov, a career criminal, liar, and cheater," the lawsuit said.

The athletes are seeking $10 million each in damages.

Russian authorities have denied Rodchenkov's allegations that the state was involved in the doping scheme, saying any doping was done by individual athletes and their coaches.

The Russian Investigative Committee has filed charges against Rodchenkov in Moscow, alleging that he abused his powers when he was Russia's anti-doping director. He was ordered arrested in absentia.

"I am speaking the truth. No one is influencing me," Rodchenkov told the AP.

With reporting by AP and New York Times
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