Russia. The United States. Allegations of meddling and improper influence. It’s a familiar story these days, but now with a new twist: now it’s Russia accusing the United States of overstepping its bounds.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of manipulating evidence provided by a whistleblower in the doping investigation that resulted in Russia’s expulsion from the 2018 Winter Olympics. Former Russian anti-doping lab director Grigory Rodchenkov, who cooperated in a wide-ranging investigation that revealed a widespread, coordinated program designed to evade detection and benefit Russian athletes in Sochi, fled Russia and is now living under the protection of United States agencies.
Rodchenkov’s presence in the United States “is not a positive for us, it’s a negative. It means he’s under the control of American special services,” Putin said in a Thursday address. “What are they doing with him there? Are they giving him some kind of substances so that he says what’s required?”
The “truth serum” angle is a peculiar but not unexpected one; in 2017, the goal in any ongoing story isn’t to provide resolution but sow doubt. Kicking the legs out from underneath any factual evidence spreads confusion and doubt, no matter how unreasonable that doubt might be. And Russia continues to insist that the IOC overreached in its reaction to the nation’s doping matters.
Rodchenkov said he was directed to distribute and administer steroids to Russian athletes before and during the Sochi Games in order to improve the nation’s prospects. While Russia has admitted to some scattered, unconnected drug use among its athletes, Putin has rejected as “nonsense” the idea that the nation coordinated a doping campaign to win medals.
Even so, the International Olympic Committee concluded there was enough evidence against Russia to ban the nation entirely from the PyeongChang Games. Russian athletes can, and will, compete in the Games, but will do so under the designation “OAR” (Olympic Athletes of Russia). Neither the Russian flag nor the Russian anthem will be on display should the athletes win medals.