On Wednesday June 27, the Russian media virtually buried alive the former head of the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) informant Grigory Rodchenkov.
The RT TV channel was among the first to report that Rodchenkov had attempted to take his own life, citing Alexander Ionov, deputy president of the Russian branch of the International Human Rights Defense Committee. Ionov claimed to have received information which was being “carefully concealed by the US intelligence agency” from colleagues in the US.
According to him, on June 19 the FBI found Rodchenkov in his apartment with empty bottles of whiskey and six packs of sedatives. The FBI staff called 911, after which the WADA informant was taken to a psycho-neurological clinic.
The Russian media space exploded: nearly all media outlets, including the federal TV channels, reported the attempted suicide, political scientists, MPs and athletes commented on the development.
Law enforcement authorities told RIA Novosti that the incident was probably related to the $30 million lawsuit filed by Russian biathletes Olga Zaitseva, Olga Vilukhina and Yana Romanova. Ionov himself told Russia 1 that Rodchenkov may have lost his nerve due to pressure from the American intelligence agency. Channel One recalled that the WADA informant tried to take his own life while he was still in Russia, and had been diagnosed with reactive depressive psychosis.
Deputy State Duma Spokesman Igor Lebedev said: “such is the way of all traitors” and “a dog’s death for a dog”. He even said that such a fate may await Sergey Skripal, the former Russian spy who was poisoned with a Russian nerve agent in the UK. Olympic champion and MP Svetlana Zhurova said that dashed hopes and the “sin he took upon his soul” may have led Rodchenkov to attempt suicide. MP Dmitry Svitsev promised to have Rodchenkov brought back to Russia, if he decides to repent.
However, several hours later, Rodchenkov’s attorney Jim Walden said that the news of the suicide was completely fake.
“Rodchenkov is healthy, happy, and continues to work productively with the anti-doping and law enforcement organizations in order to further expose corruption in Russia,” he said.
RT promised not to trust Ionov any more, despite the fact that he had previously “shared important and correct information with RT, but the cost of a mistake is too high”.
Social network users explained the source of the “mistake” may have been the satirical website IA Panorama, which reported on June 19 that Rodchenkov had last his nerve, allegedly due to the Russian football team’s victory over Egypt in the FIFA World Cup 2018.
“In the apartment of the famous doping whistleblower, they found the TV switched on with a football broadcast and six empty packets of phenobarbital sedatives” the so-called “news” outlet reported.
Rodchenkov’s attorney Jim Walden said earlier that his client has feared for his life since he exposed Russia’s state doping system.