Russia accuses doping whistleblower of modifying key data

Sports

FILE – In this May 24, 2016 file photo an employee of the Russia’s national drug-testing laboratory holds a vial in Moscow, Russia. Russia is accused of manipulating an archive of doping data from a laboratory in Moscow, which was meant to be a peace offering to the World Anti-Doping Agency to solve earlier disputes. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

Russia is blaming the World Anti-Doping Agency’s star witness for modifying key laboratory data. His lawyer says that’s nonsense.

The Russian Investigative Committee, a major law enforcement agency, alleges that former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov remotely changed test results from abroad after fleeing to the United States in 2015.

“All the evidence obtained by the investigation shows that Rodchenkov and unidentified persons intentionally made changes in the electronic database to distort the parameters and indicators of Russian athletes’ doping samples,” Russian Investigative Committee (IC) spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said in a statement Saturday.

Since leaving Russia, Rodchenkov has become a key witness for WADA, which ruled this month that the doping data — known as the LIMS database — was doctored to protect Russian athletes who failed drug tests while the data was in the custody of the IC.

Handing over the files in January was meant to be a Russian peace offering which could uncover past doping offenses involving star Russian athletes. It’s turned into another legal battleground in the saga nearly six years on from Russia hosting the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Rodchenkov’s lawyer told the AP the new allegation against his client is a “farce.”

“Rodchenkov could not and did not log into the LIMS database,” Jim Walden told The Associated Press. “We are not aware of anyone else that logged in. The point is that this is all a charade.”

WADA this month banned Russia from next year’s Tokyo Olympics over the data manipulation, though Russian athletes can still compete as neutrals.

The IC alleges the data was edited from abroad in 2015 and 2016, but hasn’t fully explained WADA’s allegation that there were thousands of changes made in the weeks before Russia handed over the data archive in January 2019. WADA says the changes were aimed at removing incriminating evidence against Russia. The IC’s Petrenko said that “access to this data by laboratory staff could not have been restricted due to the ongoing operation of the laboratory.”

Her statement also doesn’t address another key WADA claim, that false messages implicating Rodchenkov in corruption were spliced into the data archive.

Before the handover, WADA had its own copy of the database for comparison, provided in secret by an unnamed whistleblower. Russia says the source was Rodchenkov, something his lawyer denies.

Petrenko protested that “foreign partners” hadn’t made Rodchenkov available for questioning.

“This is just another Russian lie,” Walden told the AP. “They know where I am. I haven’t received a single request for an interview.”

With Russia planning a legal challenge to WADA’s sporting sanctions, the next step for Rodchenkov could be testifying at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the spring. His lawyer said he’s ready.

“If WADA or any other agency needs Grigory to testify, Grigory will uphold his promise to cooperate fully to help atone for his role,” Walden said.

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