Russian athletes allege libel by ex-anti-doping agency head

NEW YORK — Three Russian biathletes sued the country’s former anti-doping laboratory director on Tuesday, saying he severely damaged or destroyed their careers with lies.

The athletes filed a $30 million libel lawsuit in Manhattan state Supreme Court against Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, who lives in hiding in the U.S.

Rodchenkov’s lawyer, Jim Walden, called the lawsuit “a silly stunt with no chance of survival.”

He added that “it will in no way affect Dr. Rodchenkov’s brave decision to continue to tell the truth and testify against wrong doers.”

Rodchenkov has denied claims by Russian President Vladimir Putin that U.S. agencies controlled his unmasking of the scandal.

Days ago, Rodchenkov told The Associated Press in response to questions sent through his lawyer that he fears for his life after producing documents describing an elaborate ruse by Russian athletes to evade doping tests. The evidence was cited by Rodchenkov to support allegations of a complex urine-swapping plot at the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian resort of Sochi and also by Russian track and field athletes.

Rodchenkov told the AP: “I am speaking the truth. No one is influencing me.”

The revelations led to Russians competing in the Winter Olympics in South Korea being limited to 168 who passed the International Olympic Committee vetting process to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of athletes Olga Zaytseva, Yana Romanova and Olga Vilukhina, said Rodchenkov’s false allegations “ultimately warped history and stripped the athletes of the lifelong accomplishments they had earned.”

According to the lawsuits, the athletes had the silver medals they won in a relay event at the 2014 Olympics stripped by the IOC because of Rodchenkov’s “defamatory statements.”

“All of this professional carnage was based on the word of Rodchenkov, a career criminal, liar and cheater,” the lawsuit said.

Rodchenkov, who fled Russia two years ago, has said in email comments to the AP that athletes were complicit in the doping program after following “strict orders” from the state.

Russian authorities have challenged the legitimacy of Rodchenkov’s confessions and denied that any doping was state-sponsored.

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