Doping whistleblower on potential Russian reinstatement: 'Olympics could die'

Henry Bushnell

One can only imagine what it’s like to be Grigory Rodchenkov right now. As the furor over Russian doping continues apace at the Olympics, Rodchenkov remains in hiding in the United States, one of the most wanted men in the world by Russian authorities.

In his first international broadcast interview since leaving Russia and flipping for investigators, the former anti-doping lab director was asked, “If you had not left Russia, where would you be now?”

“In the tomb, of course,” he told the BBC.

Grigory Rodchenkov covered his face with a mask and sunglasses for a television interview with the BBC. (Screenshot: BBC)
Grigory Rodchenkov covered his face with a mask and sunglasses for a television interview with the BBC. (Screenshot: BBC)

That’s why, for the on-camera interview with the BBC in an unknown location in the U.S., Rodchenkov covered almost his entire head with a black mask and sunglasses.

The BBC published the interview on Friday, one day before the IOC met to review Russia’s compliance with a “code of conduct” in PyeongChang. The IOC’s executive board will consider a report from a special panel. It will then decide whether to reinstate the Russian Olympic Committee for Sunday’s Closing Ceremony.

The BBC’s Dan Roan asked Rodchenkov about that possibility:

BBC: “How would you feel if Russia are allowed to be part of the Closing Ceremony of these Olympics with their national flag, and are effectively forgiven for everything?”

Rodchenkov: “This is the most important moment in the history of the International Olympic Committee. It should show how they are consistent with the fight against doping. … And if the flag will be allowed to appear, it will be the worst decision. Olympics could die.”

Is Rodchenkov’s answer a bit alarmist? A bit of an exaggeration? Yeah, probably. The Olympics will go on, no matter how many athletes used banned substances.

But after two more Russians were caught doping during the 2018 Olympics, it’s tough to argue with Rodchenkov’s view that reinstatement would be “the worst decision.”

As he said in the interview: “Russia is a country of lying and denying, especially in sport.”

The IOC, for its part, is apparently having a tough time with the decision:

The deadline for a final decision would presumably Sunday morning in Korea – Saturday evening Eastern Time.

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