Russian doping lab whistleblower accused of being recruited in Canada to spy

Russian doping lab whistleblower accused of being recruited in Canada to spy
From CBC - February 14, 2018

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A Canadian-based 'conspiracy'

Top Russian Olympic officials have found a new scapegoat in their attempts to explain away a state-sponsored cheating program.

Grigory Rodchenkov, the whistle-blowing former head of Moscow's anti-doping laboratory, was a spy recruited and trained in Canada, says the president of Russia's Cross-Country Skiing Federation.

Yelena Valbemade the allegation Tuesday in an interview with the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Much of her time during the interview was spent trying to paint the 59-year-old doctor who is now living in the United States under witness protection as unhinged and untrustworthy.

"I have known Grigory for many years. He is mentally unhealthy," said Valbe. "The fact that he tried to commit suicide and stabbed himself with a knife speaks a lot about his mental capacity."

The World Anti-Doping Authority kept him in place for a reason, she added, because he had been "compromised" by foreign agents.

"I think Rodchenkov was turned when he worked in Canada, as one person cannot mastermind such a plan. He allegedly kept diaries for many years," Valbe said.

An English language version of the interview, published by the state-run RT television network, says that Rodchenkov worked at a Calgary anti-doping lab for a year in the late 1990s. It appears to be the first such mention of an alleged Canadian connection in the doping scandal.

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, which manages Canada's anti-doping program, told CBC News it is looking into the report, but was unable to respond with a statement by press time.

This is not the first occasion that Russia has claimed that Rodchenkov was under the influence of a foreign power.

At a late December press conference, Vladimir Putin suggested that American police and intelligence agencies might be behind the WADA reports.

"Is [Rodchenkov] an honest person? He is also under the control of the FBI, protected by the FBI. Everything is laid out in his diaries - how do you know he is honest? He says himself that money is the main thing," the Russian president said.

"Being under the control of the FBI is not necessarily an advantage, he works under their guidance. What are they doing to him over there? [We do not know] what substances they are providing him with, for him to say what they want [him to say]."

Rodchenkov has also come under criminal investigation since fleeing the country in 2015, and has been charged in absentia for trafficking in illegal substances.

Russian authorities have also issued an arrest warrant for "abuse of powers," and indicated that they would be seeking his extradition from the United States.

The Cross Country Federation's Valbe, a three-time Olympic gold winner, has emerged as one of Rodchenkov's most outspoken critics.

WADA's Oswald report, which was based on the doctor's testimony, identified a half-dozen of Valbe's athletes who benefitted from the doping and sample-swap conspiracy in Sochi.

Alexander Legkov won a silver and a gold. Maxim Vylegzhanin took home three silvers.

Follow all the Winter Games results and get a full broadcast schedule at CBC's online Olympic hub.

The National can be found at its regular time on CBC News Network, as well as streamed on YouTube and Facebook, for the duration of the Games.

Iran's deadly fixation on 'foreign spies'

Questions continue to swirl around the death of an Iranian-Canadian academic in a notorious Tehran prison this past weekend.

Kavous Seyed-Emami, a 63-year-old professor of sociology and an environmental activist, was taken into custody in late January and accused of espionage.

Iranian authorities claim he took his own life, but his family are calling for an independent autopsy.

The jailing of dual nationals in Iran, mostly on flimsy allegations of spying, has become an established trend over the past two years.

No one is certain of just how many visitors have been caught up in the netmany families and foreign governments chose not to publicize the detentionsbut this past November a Reuters investigation documented at least 30 such cases.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British aid worker employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, has perhaps the highest profile, with the British government routinely protesting her now 22-month incarceration.

Today, her husband appealed to the United Nations to intervene. He says her treatment in jail, which has included long periods of solitary confinement, has been tantamount to torture.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was tried on charges of running an "online journalism course" for the BBC and plotting the overthrow of Iran's clerics. But her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, says her five-year sentence is simply a "tool of pressure in wider diplomatic affairs."

Others have come to similar conclusions about many of the other dual-national detentions.

The Reuters investigation pointed out that 19 of the 30 prisoners they were able to identify were European citizens. Family members and their lawyers allege that they are being used as bargaining chips. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has many business interests, they note, and appears to be using the detainees as leverage in its negotiations with foreign governments and companies.

It's not clear how Kavous Seyed-Emami's arrest might fit into such a pattern. The U.S.-trained academic and managing director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation was arrested along with several other environmentalists.

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