Russia Accused of State-Led Doping of Athletes During 2014 Sochi Olympics
Russia Accused of State-Led Doping of Athletes During 2014 Sochi Olympics

The director of Russia’s anti-doping lab said dozens of Russian athletes used a cocktail of drugs to win gold medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, reported The New York Times on May 12.

Grigory Rodchenkov said at least 15 medal winners were part of a state-sponsored doping program that had been planned for years to make sure the nation dominated the Games.

Rodchenkov said he created a three-drug cocktail of illegal steroid substances—metenolone, trenbolone and oxandrolone—that he mixed with liquor and gave to dozens of Russian competitors. The athletes included 14 members of its cross-country ski team and two veteran bobsledders who won two golds.

Rodchenkov said he did not administer the drugs himself but provided them to the sports ministry. Rodchenkov said the drugs helped athletes recover quickly from exhausting training routines, and allowed them to compete in their best shape over consecutive days. He said he used alcohol to quicken the absorption of the steroids in order to shorten the detection timeframe, using Chivas whiskey for men and Martini vermouth for women. The athletes were ordered to swish the liquid around in their mouths, under the tongue, to absorb the drugs.

The director revealed how the country’s anti-doping experts and members of the intelligence service replaced urine samples contaminated by performance-enhancing drugs with clean urine collected months in advance in a dark-of-night operation.

Rodchenkov said as many as 100 tainted urine samples were removed.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 23:  Pilot Alexander Zubkovof Russia team 1 celebrates winning the gold medal during the Men's Four-Man Bobsleigh on Day 16 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Sliding Center Sanki on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Pilot Alexander Zubkovof Russia team 1 celebrates winning the gold medal during the Men’s Four-Man Bobsleigh at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 23, 2014. (Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Russia won the most medals during the sporting event—with 13 golds and 33 medals in total. The United States won 9 golds and 28 total, finishing fourth on the medal table. Russia won 10 more medals than at the previous Winter Olympics. No athletes were caught doping. 

“People are celebrating Olympic champion winners, but we are sitting crazy and replacing their urine,” Dr. Rodchenkov said. “Can you imagine how Olympic sport is organized?”

Meanwhile, Russia’s Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko, said in a news conference with state-run news agency TASS that the allegations were an attempt to discredit Russian sports prior to the Olympics in Rio.

“The system of organization of the Olympic Games was completely transparent,” Mutko told TASS.

“Everything was under the control of international experts — from the collection of samples to their analysis.”

But Rodchenkov says otherwise. He said the sports ministry actively guided the doping practices.

On May 13, the day after the New York Times report, two Russian Olympic gold medalists named in the story denied doping.

Two-time gold medal winner at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Russia's bobsledder Alexander Zubkov speaks during a press conference on May 13, 2016 in Moscow. The Kremlin on May 13 dismissed claims that dozens of Russian athletes including at least 15 medallists at the 2014 Winter Olympics were part of an extensive state-run doping programme, saying the allegations, produced by former head of Russia's anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, were unsubstantiated slander by a "defector".  / AFP / VASILY MAXIMOV        (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Two-time gold medal winner at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Russia’s bobsledder Alexander Zubkov speaks during a press conference on May 13, 2016 in Moscow.
(Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images)

“What’s written now in this article is baseless libel,” bobsled champion Alexander Zubkov told Russian state TV.

He also said he regularly gave doping samples throughout his career.

“I’m a person who has worked for many years in sport, competed at the Olympics, and I know how much responsibility each athlete bears when they compete at such a high level,” he added.

Gold and silver medalist at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Russia's cross country skier Alexander Legkov speaks during a press conference on May 13, 2016 in Moscow.  The Kremlin on May 13 dismissed claims that dozens of Russian athletes including at least 15 medallists at the 2014 Winter Olympics were part of an extensive state-run doping programme, saying the allegations, produced by former head of Russia's anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, were unsubstantiated slander by a "defector".  / AFP / VASILY MAXIMOV        (Photo credit should read VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Gold and silver medalist at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Russia’s cross country skier Alexander Legkov speaks during a press conference on May 13, 2016, in Moscow.
(Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images)

Zubkov and Olympian Alexander Legkov then threatened to sue Rodchenkov for defamation, while Zubkov claimed the accusations were “simply lunacy.”

A spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said the Kremlin rejects the allegations that the government oversaw a state-run doping program and subsequent cover-up.

“It just seems like, you know, some kind of a turncoat’s libel,” Dmitry Peskov said, without mentioning Rodchenkov by name.

“I wouldn’t put trust in such unfounded claims,” he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) stands next to Alexander Zubkov, gold medalist in the two-man and four-man bobsleigh for Russia, during the Closing Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 23, 2014. AFP PHOTO / POOL / DAVID GOLDMAN        (Photo credit should read DAVID GOLDMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) stands next to Alexander Zubkov, gold medalist in the two-man and four-man bobsleigh for Russia, during the Closing Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics on Feb. 23, 2014. (David Goldman/AFP/Getty Images)

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will investigate the accusations made by Rodchenkov (who has volunteered to identify which samples he tampered with). The agency released a statement on May 10, saying it will “immediately probe the new Russian doping allegations, related to the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.”

The International Olympic Committee said on May 12 that the “allegations are very detailed and very worrying.”

The committee said it “will not hesitate to act with its usual policy of zero tolerance for doping and defending the clean athletes” based on the results of the WADA investigation.

As for Rodchenkov, he resigned and fled to Los Angeles fearing for his safety. Back in Russia, two of his colleagues, both former anti-doping officials, died suddenly in February within weeks of each other.

Rodchenkov is now the center of the documentary “Icarus” by director Bryan Fogel, set to be released in September.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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