Three Russian track cyclists are threatening to sue the World Anti-Doping Agency and the former head of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory after they were barred from competing at the Olympic Games last month.
The trio – Dmitry Sokolov, Kirill Sveshnikov and Dmitry Strakhov – had all been selected initially for Russia’s men’s team pursuit squad in Rio.
According to the website Inside The Games, however, the three riders were dropped after being linked to EPO use in the McLaren report into doping in Russia, which found that positive anti-doping test results had been covered up.
While the McLaren report did not name them, the UCI confirmed in the week before the Olympics began that it had been “informed that three riders named by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) to compete in Rio 2016 were potentially implicated.”
It said; “The UCI, through the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF), is in the process of identifying relevant rider samples and is in close dialogue with WADA to move forward with these cases immediately.”
The cyclists, who strongly protest their innocence, lost an appeal ahead of the Olympics to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
According to a letter seen by Inside the Games and which was addressed, among others, to WADA, the UCI and the International Olympic Committee, the three deny taking EPO.
They were also critical of alleged evidence of their EPO use provided by Grigory Rodchenkov, former director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, who has claimed the Russian Sports Ministry was engaged in swapping samples during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Rodchenkov’s whistleblowing of what he insists was a state-backed programme designed to help drugs cheats escape detection has made him a pariah in Russia – indeed, he is now based in the United States.
The three team pursuit riders did not hold back in expressing their opinion of him, saying that they could not understand why they were barred from competing at Rio “due to this insane criminal’s testimony,” which they maintained violated the World Anti-Doping Code.
"We evidently were deprived of any fair possibility just to present our explanations in relation to these unfounded and false allegations made by such a persistent offender like Mr Rodchenkov," they added.
Besides threatening to sue him and WADA, they have also called for "representative commission of independent experts" to be set up to investigate the claims.
A spokesperson for WADA told the website: "WADA did receive the letter and it has been passed on to Professor Richard McLaren.
"WADA has full confidence in Professor McLaren, his Investigation and the Report that resulted.
"It's important to bear in mind that Professor McLaren's investigation is not based on Dr. Rodchenkov's allegations but rather on evidence that corroborates the allegations as first exposed via the New York Times.
"Professor McLaren is currently completing his mandate with the second Report timed for end-October,” it added.
"Upon completion, Professor McLaren will publish the evidence."
News of the threatened lawsuit comes in a week when Russia’s relationship with WADA is under the spotlight after cyber hackers managed to access its database and published details of athletes including Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins who have been allowed to compete while using normally banned substances due to Therapeutic Use Examptions.
While many believe that Russian security forces are behind the attack, Moscow strongly denies state involvement.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.