On December 11, 2017, Russian authorities filed drug-trafficking charges against Grigory Rodchenkov, the whistleblower who exposed Russia’s state-sponsored doping program. It was his testimony, and the series of investigations it launched, that ultimately got the Russian national team banned from next month’s Olympic Games in South Korea.
News of the charges against Rodchenkov was reported by state-owned Russian outlets the next day, but The Atlantic has since learned that the timing was seemingly not accidental. A lawyer for Rodchenkov believes Russian authorities are retaliating for his client’s disclosures by making it more difficult for him to remain in the United States, where he fled in 2015 on a tourist visa. The day Rodchenkov was charged in Russia also happened to be the day he met with U.S. immigration officials in hopes of securing a more permanent basis for remaining in the United States. His lawyer, Jim Walden, rejects the charges. “It’s Russia,” Walden says. “They can make up whatever they want to make up.”(In response to repeated requests for comment, the office of the prosecutor that filed the charges demurred, asking for the request to be faxed.)
The charges could significantly undercut Rodchenkov’s immigration case, and if the immigration bid fails, it could put his life in danger. A Moscow court has issued a warrant for Rodchenkov’s arrest, and Russia is reportedly seeking his extradition. One Russian Olympic official has publicly called for Rodchenkov to be shot. Rodchenkov’s wife and children, who still live in Russia, have had their assets frozen, property seized, and their passports temporarily seized.