Olympic Doping Diaries: Chemist’s Notes Bolster Case Against Russia


Olympic officials will announce their decision on Dec. 5. If they do not bar Russia completely from the coming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, they are likely to keep all Russian emblems out of the Games: The Russian flag would not fly at the opening and closing ceremonies, Russian athletes would compete in neutral uniforms and the Russian anthem would not be played. Such restrictions, Russian officials have said, would be tantamount to an outright ban, and Russia would consider boycotting the 2018 Olympics.

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“6:20 a.m. Nagornykh woke me up — we have to see Mutko today. I swam in the pool — the water is ice-cold…I had breakfast, came to work early — got all the materials ready for Mutko,” Rodchenkov wrote on Feb. 3.

Later that day, he wrote, he met with the sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, and his deputy in Mutko’s office in Sochi. “We went over all the issues. He wants to preserve Sochi as a backup facility.
That’s news to me,” Rodchenkov wrote, going on to detail conversations he had with international chemists, and the bottle of Glenmorangie whiskey one British chemist, David Cowan, gave him.



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Hilary Swift for The New York Times

“The Disciplinary Commission does not consider it at all likely that these pages were newly re-written or that, at the time, Dr. Rodchenkov misrepresented the reality in his own way,” an I.O.C. document published on Monday said. “These entries may therefore be considered as a significant evidential element.”

Together with Dr. Rodchenkov’s sworn statements, the diaries detail specific discussions about cheating that he conducted with prominent officials including Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s sports minister at the time who is now the nation’s deputy prime minister; Yuri Nagornykh, Mutko’s former deputy sports minister, who also belonged to Russia’s Olympic Committee; and Irina Rodionova, the former deputy director of the center of sports preparation of national teams of Russia.

Alongside those consequential conversations, Dr. Rodchenkov recorded the mundane details of his life — simple errands like buying a Bounty chocolate bar at Sochi’s central market along with cold medicine for Thierry Boghosian, the international lab inspector who never detected Russia’s brazen breaches of drug-testing during the three weeks of the Sochi Games.

On Jan. 13, 2014, Dr. Rodchenkov wrote that Ms. Rodionova’s assistant, Aleksey Kiushkin, had brought him a drug cocktail known among the officials as Duchess, a mixture of three anabolic steroids and Martini-brand vermouth. Dr. Rodchenkov had formulated the drink for top athletes to take throughout the Olympics, and Ms. Rodionova prepared and distributed it to coaches and athletes.

“Kiushkin came with tons of news. He also brought a freshly-made Martini. I took it right away,” wrote Dr. Rodchenkov, who regularly tested drugs on himself and documented their effects.

For the following week, as the Sochi Games approached, alongside admirations of his new Samsung smartphone and criticisms of Olympic cafeteria food, Dr. Rodchenkov recorded his frustration that officials had not clearly outlined their plans to transport from Moscow the hundreds of ounces of clean urine that top athletes had for months collected in baby food jars and old soda bottles — urine that was the linchpin to what he repeatedly referred to as “the Sochi plan.”

“There’s no clear understanding of the plan, it’s just a nightmare!” he wrote on Jan. 29, one day after two top Russian biathlon athletes had been caught doping in Austria. “Mutko is freaking out over biathlon, things are out of control and chaotic.”

On Feb. 1, he followed instructions that Mr. Nagornykh, the deputy minister, had given him at the Azimut hotel the night before. Dr. Rodchenkov inspected the building adjacent to his lab, controlled by the Federal Security Service, he said. The stockpiled urine had arrived in Sochi and was surreptitiously stored there, he wrote, but he was maddened that the samples were not sorted by sport or alphabetized by each corresponding athlete’s name.

“Nothing is ready there,” he wrote. “I completed a full inventory.”

On Feb. 3, four days before the Sochi Games began, Dr. Rodchenkov’s preparations culminated with his presentation to Mr. Mutko, the sports minister. In a meeting at Mr. Mutko’s office at the local organizing committee’s headquarters, Dr. Rodchenkov wrote that day, he had handed Mr. Mutko a copy of the “Duchess list,” naming the dozens of Russian Olympians who were ingesting the drug cocktail and would have their incriminating urine swapped out with their prestocked clean urine.

At that meeting, according to the diary entry, the minister suggested keeping the Olympic laboratory open after the Games, as a place to experiment with new frontiers of doping.

“We went over all the issues,” Dr. Rodchenkov wrote on Feb. 3, noting he had been up since 6:20 a.m. preparing. “He wants to preserve Sochi as a backup facility.”

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Russian Doctor Explains How He Helped Beat Doping Tests at the Sochi Olympics

A step-by-step look at how Russian agents used an elaborate scheme to swap out tainted urine samples for clean ones taken months earlier.



OPEN Graphic


Five days later, at the Azimut Hotel in Sochi, the minister followed up, requesting Dr. Rodchenkov put in writing a request to keep the lab open, which Dr. Rodchenkov did that evening as he drank tea, he wrote on Feb. 8.

Following multiple investigative reports published last year, Russia’s coordinated cheating has been accepted as fact among top Olympic officials, in spite of a largely defiant response from Russian authorities that has grown fiercer in recent weeks. This fall, Russia criminally charged Rodchenkov with abuse of authority and indicated it would request his extradition. Authorities had previously seized his property in Moscow, where his family remains.

Russian officials have suggested Dr. Rodchenkov acted alone in tampering with more than 100 incriminating urine samples in Sochi, an act which has so far led the global officials to order Russia to return 11 Olympic medals. “One can hardly steal a victory that has already been won,” a Kremlin spokesman said Monday about those disqualifications.

President Vladimir V. Putin has forcefully disputed the state’s involvement, a question that could be the difference between a full ban of the nation’s athletes and a lesser punishment, such as barring the Russian anthem from playing at the 2018 Games.

But consequences are expected to extend beyond the Winter Games, as the widespread cheating that investigators confirmed stretched across seasons, sports and years — as Dr. Rodchenkov also closely detailed discussing with Russia’s most powerful sports officials in his journals.

Dr. Rodchenkov was watching television on Jan. 8, 2014, when the deputy minister called to reprimand him after a star racewalker, Elena Lashmanova, had been caught doping. “Nagornykh called — he’s calling everyone on the carpet,” Dr. Rodchenkov wrote. “I came to the ministry, waited for Nagornykh, had a 2-hr discussion about details of the Sochi prep.”

Months later, on March 14, 2014, Dr. Rodchenkov wrote that he had sat in his car, charging his phone, while talking to Mr. Mutko, who had called to “let me have it” for not effectively covering up Ms. Lashmanova’s drug use.

On April 21, 2014, Dr. Rodchenkov debated with Mr. Nagornykh whether to falsify Ms. Lashmanova’s record, something the deputy minister was advocating but Dr. Rodchenkov feared would draw the attention of global regulators and jeopardize his lab’s accreditation, he said.

“He got an excellent tan in Mexico,” Dr. Rodchenkov wrote after meeting with Mr. Nagornykh at the sports ministry that day. “I spent 1.5 hours there fighting. Nagornykh slowly backed off. We agreed to go see Mutko by 1:00.”

In July 2014, Ms. Lashmanova was suspended.

Last year, after an initial investigation commissioned by the international regulator of drugs in sports had confirmed Dr. Rodchenkov’s account, the Russian government dismissed Mr. Nagornykh, Natalia Zhelanova and Ms. Rodionova. Putin elevated Mr. Mutko to deputy premier in October 2016.

In an interview with The Times last year, Mr. Mutko distanced himself from Dr. Rodchenkov, saying his deputy, Mr. Nagornykh, had managed preparations for Sochi.

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“6:30, I took a shower, had a smoke, got ready, had hot cereal and farmer’s cheese at breakfast,” Rodchenkov wrote on Feb. 17. That day he presented to the International Olympic Committee’s medical commission, after which he briefed the sports minister and deputy minister.

“Nagornykh and Mutko were waiting for me,” he wrote, noting they had lunch together. “I was given a second lunch within three hours! Seabass filet and mutton bean soup. I finished Mutko’s grapes, walked on foot to security checkpoint #16.”

That day, Russia’s women’s hockey team was eliminated. “I worked my night shift,” Rodchenkov wrote, referring to the overnight urine swapping. “I even felt energized for some reason. Came back at 5 a.m. and slept till 8 a.m.”



Credit
Hilary Swift for The New York Times

But during the Games, Dr. Rodchenkov documented multiple meals with Mr. Mutko and acted with familiarity, according to his daily notes. “I ate Mutko’s grapes,” he wrote on Feb. 17 about a lunch at which he had already eaten sea bass fillet and mutton soup. “Everyone is exhausted.”

Dr. Rodchenkov and his lawyer say the contemporaneous notes make clear he was a foot soldier in a system that was controlled at the highest levels of the state. Documents published Monday by the International Olympic Committee indicate they, too, accept his account.

“Dr. Rodchenkov was telling the truth when he provided explanations of the cover-up scheme he managed,” Olympic officials wrote in the first disciplinary decision related to the Russian doping scandal, justifying a lifetime ban for the 19th Russian athlete so far disciplined for the Sochi schemes.

While it is unclear if the entire Russian national team will be penalized for the cheating, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, suggested this month that the coming sanctions will be more severe than those levied ahead of the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, from which more than 100 athletes were barred.

“It is about the manipulation of the antidoping system of the Olympic Games,” Mr. Bach said in an interview with The Times. “These are our tests, and this is the lab of the Olympic Games, and therefore our position now is very much different” than it was ahead of Rio.

“It’s not our job to make everybody happy,” Mr. Bach said. “It’s our job to sanction this in a proportionate and appropriate way.”

Dr. Rodchenkov is living in an undisclosed location in the United States under protection by American authorities. His lawyer said Dr. Rodchenkov had been fully cooperative with American and international agencies concerning Russia’s doping program.

“If the I.O.C. fails to act to severely punish this frontal assault on the integrity of the Olympics, it will forever lose the moral authority to punish any cheaters,” said the lawyer, Jim Walden, of the firm Walden, Macht and Haran.

Dr. Rodchenkov told The Times last year that he had recorded the details of his work in Moscow somewhat mindfully, and not on a computer — as his friend Nikita Kamayev, Russia’s former antidoping chief who died suddenly in 2016, had done. It was Mr. Kamayev who gave Dr. Rodchenkov the black and gold Waterman pen he used for his diaries.

Dr. Rodchenkov attributed Mr. Kamayev’s sudden death to his announcement that he was writing a book, from which Dr. Rodchenkov said he tried to dissuade him.

“I told him, I’m not writing with a computer,” Dr. Rodchenkov said in May 2016. “I’m writing with your pen.”

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