Putin accuses U.S. agencies of manipulating doping testimony
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to a journalist's question during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
James Ellingworth, The Associated Press
Published Thursday, December 14, 2017 6:48AM EST
MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin accused U.S. agencies of manipulating evidence from the main whistleblower on doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Putin said Thursday that former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov -- who is under witness protection after fleeing to the United States last year -- is "under the control" of the American agencies, including the FBI.
Rodchenkov being 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. "What are they doing with him there? Are they giving him some kind of substances so that he says what's required?"
Putin added that Rodchenkov should never have been appointed to run Moscow's anti-doping laboratory in the first place.
"It was a mistake on the part of those who did it, and I know who did it," he said, but didn't name names or say they should be punished.
Testimony from Rodchenkov played a key role in International Olympic Committee investigations which led last week to Russian athletes being required to compete under a neutral flag at the upcoming Pyeongchang Games.
Rodchenkov said he was ordered by the sports ministry to oversee steroid use by Russian athletes in many sports, and to cover up their doping by falsifying test results and swapping dirty samples for clean ones.
The IOC's decision to trust Rodchenkov's evidence is "nonsense," Putin said, portraying the scientist as mentally unstable and referring repeatedly to Russian criminal investigations against him.
The Russian government has denied it had any involvement in doping, particularly around the Sochi Olympics, which is seen as a key prestige project.
Russian officials have previously said they accept some drug use occurred, but on a much smaller scale than alleged, and that Rodchenkov tricked some clean Russian athletes into taking banned substances by claiming they were legitimate dietary supplements.