From the confines of the Witness Protection Program, “Icarus” co-star Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov filed an April 30 lawsuit against Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire owner of the Brooklyn Nets. Both men hail from Russia, where Rodchenkov — tasked with overseeing the Olympic Anti-Doping Laboratory in 2014 — says the government ordered him to help dozens of their nation’s cheating athletes bypass testing for performance-enhancing drugs. Rodchenkov’s mea culpa came via The New York Times and the aforementioned Bryan Fogel film, which won Netflix this year’s Best Documentary Oscar.
Three Russian athletes accused of doping in Sochi — Olga Zaytseva, Yana Romanova, and Olga Vilukhina, who were stripped of their silver biathalon medals and banned from future Olympic competition — sued Rodchenkov for libel in February. Prokhorov is paying the biathletes’ legal fees for the New York State Supreme Court case.
In a Monday-morning call with journalists, Rodchenkov’s lawyer, Jim Walden of Walden, Macht & Haran, called the February lawsuit filing “frivolous,” announcing that his client filed a motion to dismiss the biathletes’ libel suit. Hoping to recover damages and legal fees, Rodchenkov also filed a suit against Prokhorov and five unnamed financiers, attempting to assert his rights under New York’s anti-SLAPP [Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation] statute, which safeguards whistleblowers.
“I also want to take the opportunity today to challenge the latest misinformation campaign coming out of the Kremlin,” said Walden. “The Kremlin’s puppets have claimed without any basis that Dr. Rodchenkov has retreated somehow from his testimony” delivered to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in January 2018. “These are lies, plain and simple. Dr. Rodchenkov has not wavered, retreated, or contradicted his truth. He’s been consistent and clear, and his testimony has been corroborated and credited again and again.”
IndieWire has reached out to Prokhorov via the Brooklyn Nets for comment.
With assistance from Fogel, Rodchenkov escaped Russia in late 2015, fearing political persecution. When accepting his Academy Award, Fogel said, “We dedicate this award to Dr. Grigory, our fearless whistleblower who now lives in grave danger.”
In November 2017, 17 months after first speaking to New York Times reporters, Rodchenkov shared journal entries with the newspaper, written soon before and after the Sochi Olympics. The accounts explained how Rodchenkov provided athletes with a steroid-laden mixture “Duchess Cocktail” of his own creation, then, during the Games, swapped their tainted urine samples with clean ones collected in Moscow months before. Switches were made possible by a hand-sized hole in the wall of Rodchenkov’s Sochi lab, typically concealed by a cabinet.
Early the next month, the International Olympic Committee — which was already carrying out Sochi-linked disciplinary proceedings against 28 Russian athletes — banned Russia from participating in the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Yet 169 Russian athletes were later permitted to compete as the “Olympic Athletes From Russia” contingent, claiming 17 medals. The World Anti-Doping Agency reports that hundreds of Russian athletes have been guilty of doping since 2011.
Backstage at the Oscar ceremony, Fogel called for reigning IOC president Thomas Bach to resign.