Liam Morgan

As International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach began to take questions from the world’s media after announcing the long-awaited decision on Russian participation at Pyeongchang 2018, another intriguing telephone conference was taking place with someone thousands of miles away.

Presumably sat in the New York City office which bears his name, Jim Walden gave a lengthy response to the news on behalf of his client - former Moscow Laboratory head Grigory Rodchenkov, the man who provided much of the evidence that had led to Russia being banned from next year's Winter Olympic Games. 

What followed was a fascinating, if not troubling, insight into the man everyone credits (or blames, depending where you are from) for the IOC banning the Russian flag and anthem from Pyeongchang 2018. 

While the issue has not been life and death for the overwhelming majority of the key stakeholders and players involved in the Russian doping scandal, it has been exactly that for Rodchenkov.

Bach may have said that the IOC Executive Board decision on Russia drew a line under the whole saga, but this is not the case for Rodchenkov. 

He may never be able to do so.

If Walden is to be believed, he is likely to continue to feel fearful for some time yet.

"My hope is that the situation improves but the Kremlin has proved to be a very determined and difficult adversary for Grigory," Walden told those of us who had tuned in to the press conference.

"He knows that he’s going to be looking over this shoulder for the rest of his life."

Grigory Rodchenkov's lawyer chillingly claimed he will be looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life ©Facebook
Grigory Rodchenkov's lawyer chillingly claimed he will be looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life ©Facebook

Rodchenkov, pilloried and castigated as nothing more than a triator and liar in Russia, took a huge gamble when he laid bare the lurid breaches of the anti-doping system in his home country.

He took a monumental risk when choosing to divulge details, first to the New York Times and then to the various investigatory bodies set up in response to his revelatory interview with the newspaper, so much so that he was forced to flee Russia for the safety of the witness protection in the United States.

Since then, he has been cast as a pariah by Russian officials from the Government down to those with ties to the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). 

He has, effectively, been thrown to the wolves by the so-called Motherland.

The anti-Rodchenkov rhetoric was elevated a notch or two by honorary ROC President Leonid Tyagachev when he claimed he should be "shot for his untruths" and face a firing squad "as Stalin would have done".

These ghastly quotes, which many observers have pointed out violate the Olympic Charter and certainly contravene the Olympic spirit the IOC are always banging on about, were, shockingly, never publicly condemned.

The IOC deserve every bit of criticism they receive for this. 

Here was someone with connections to the Olympic Movement openly calling for the death of Rodchenkov, who the IOC have relied on to produce evidence they may never have found, in a manner which merited a stern and tough response.

Instead, nothing. No apology, no acknowledgment of Russian wrongdoing.

Walden, however, claimed that the IOC had privately told Russia that such sentiments trying to "discredit" Rodchenkov were "wholly inappropriate".

Thomas Bach claimed the IOC's decision would draw a line under the whole affair ©Getty Images
Thomas Bach claimed the IOC's decision would draw a line under the whole affair ©Getty Images

As we saw with the eventual decision to allow clean Russians to compete under the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" banner, the IOC have been constantly desperate to appease the nation, so as not to embarrass them, and have been reluctant to openly criticise the country.

Tyagachev gave them the perfect opportunity to change all that and to show how the stream of incredulous words and comments from Russia against Rodchenkov were unacceptable and had no place in the Olympic Movement. 

Alas, politics triumphed.

"We were surprised that there was not a more public statement from the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency," Walden said.

"But he [Rodchenkov] has never wavered and has not changed his determination."

That last quote from Walden paints the favourable picture of Rodchenkov that Russia does not want us to see.

He has not given up when many others would have done. 

Yes, this is ultimately the man who helped control and direct the doping system but his courage in speaking out should not be underestimated.

Wherever he is in America, I am sure Rodchenkov feels more vindicated with every passing day. With each IOC reasoned decision on those Russians they have sanctioned so far for doping at Sochi 2014 comes yet more proof that he was telling the truth all along.

"In conclusion, the more closely the Disciplinary Commission considered the evidence on file, the more it found that all the other elements which were available corroborated Dr Rochenkov's statements," the IOC Disciplinary Commission, who have already called him a "reliable witness" and whose evidence was “significant,” said in the reasoned decision on bobsledder Alexander Zubkov.

"Therefore, the Disciplinary Commission has come to the conclusion that, whatever his motivation may be and whichever wrongdoing he may have committed in the past, Dr Rodchenkov was telling the truth when he provided explanations of the cover-up scheme that he managed."

These explanations have ultimately cost Rodchenkov the life he knew before.

Samuel Schmid's Commission backed Grigory Rodchenkov's evidence as truthful ©Getty Images
Samuel Schmid's Commission backed Grigory Rodchenkov's evidence as truthful ©Getty Images

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Walden’s press conference came when he was asked about Rodchenkov’s current state of mind and how he copes with being so far away from his family in witness protection.

As heartbreakingly documented in the brilliant yet tragic Icarus documentary, Rodchenkov is desperate to one day return home to his wife and some degree of normality. 

With a target seemingly on his back, however, this is never likely to come to fruition.

"He is sad but is in regular contact with his family," Walden said.

"He has his good days and his bad days."