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Russian-Olympic Whistleblower Files Counterclaim Under New York’s Anti-SLAPP Law

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  • Posted on: Jun 20 2018

Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, who was charged with libel for exposing the illegal doping scandal during the 2014 Sochi Olympics of Russian Olympic athletes, has now filed a motion to dismiss the charge, which his attorneys have portrayed as a ploy to find his whereabouts. “We have every confidence that this litigation was not started to vindicate the athlete, but to try to locate and identify Dr. Rodchenkov’s location,” said his attorney, Jim Walden. Rodchenkov has also filed a counterclaim under New York’s Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) law. New York’s Anti-SLAPP law is designed for protecting whistleblowers who get sued for making libelous remarks. During the 2018 winter Olympics, Russia appealed 39 cases of performance-drug use, for which 28 were overturned on the insufficient evidence.

Rodchenkov is accusing Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire and majority owner of the Brooklyn Nets, who also ran Russia’s biathlon during the Sochi games of attempting to silence him through harassment and threats of violence. “With today’s filings the hunted becomes the hunter,” said Rodchenkov’s attorney, Jim Walden. “Russia and its puppets have been persistently attacking Dr. Rodchenkov for too long, most recently with this frivolous lawsuit that parrots the Kremlin’s slander.”

A Doping Scandal

Rodchenkov recently alleged that the laboratory, the Anti-Doping Center, was used to further a state-sponsored scheme to ply Russian athletes with performance-enhancing drugs. He admitted to his own part in the conspiracy of developing a combination of steroids and creating a system for swapping out “dirty” urine samples for that of the athletes’ prior to drug use. Russian Olympians took home 33 medals in the games. Once a German television station began to expose the scandal, Rodchenkov, afraid of taking the fall fled to the United States in 2015, before exposing the scandal himself.

In November 2017, Olympics medals were stripped from three Russian biathletes: Olga Zaytseva, Yana Romanova, and Olga Vilukhina. They were also banned from performing in future games due to anti-doping violations. This past February, the three biathletes filed a joint libel suit against Rodchenkov in Manhattan Supreme Court, claiming that much of Rodchenkov’s story has been fabricated and that each is entitled to $10 million for their lifetime ban from the sport due to Rodchenkov. . Mikhail Prokhorov, who ran the Russian Biathlon Federation for the Sochi Games is helping to finance the case.

So What is Next?

Rodchenkov, who is currently in the witness protection program, to hide himself from Russian agents seeking retaliation, will provide any depositions remotely in order to maintain the secrecy of his location. In the months prior to publicly blowing the whistle, two high-level executives and friends of his suspiciously died unexpectedly. Rodchenkov has released a statement saying that he is “healthy, well and well-protected.” According to Sputnik news, a state-run Russian news agency, Kremlin officials have rejected Rodchenkov’s claims as lies, and would consider taking legal action. Prokhorov agrees and shared this sentiment with the media through his spokesperson. “We categorically deny the accusations in this suit, but instead of trading in rumors and baseless accusations by the media, we will await our fair hearing in the court of law where facts and evidence will their rightful place as the only means of determining the truth.”

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