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Russian doping scandal brushes Prokhorov

Mikhail Prokhorov Biathlon (Onexim)

The Russian doping scandal, which has already resulted in Russia being banned from the Winter Olympics, has now touched Mikhail Prokhorov, who ran the Russian biathlon program leading up to the Sochi Olympics.

According to the Wall Street Journal...

The whistleblower at the heart of the International Olympic Committee’s case against Russia alleged in sworn testimony that Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov paid a Russian biathlete millions of rubles not to disclose the elaborate doping scheme that has resulted in the country’s ban from the upcoming Pyeongchang Games.

Prokhorov vehemently dies the charge, as does the athlete and the Journal concedes that the charge is “buried in a footnote deep in the affidavit of the saga’s central figure” whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, who oversaw the state-sponsored doping as the head of Moscow’s doping control laboratory.

According to reporters Ben Cohen and Nathan Hodge, Rodchenkov’s allegation is admittedly second hand and there is no further evidence to support the accusation. Prokhorov disputed Rodchenkov’s account on Thursday.

“We categorically deny this story,” a representative for Prokhorov said. “It is based on totally irresponsible hearsay and is complete nonsense.”

A spokesman for the NBA declined to comment on the allegations but it could certainly investigate if it chose to. Adam Silver praised Prokhorov this week in Mexico City. Prokhorov will need league approval for its planned sale of 49 percent of the team to Joseph Tsai, the billionaire executive vice chairman of Alibaba, the giant Chinese e-commerce company.

Eight years ago, Prokhorov played a critical role in Russian sport. He was named head of the Russian Biathlon Union, in charge of preparing the country’s biathletes for the Winter Olympics in the Russian resort city of Sochi in 2014.

He financed their operations, hired top coaches, built an dedicated practice facility, installed Sergei Kushchenko, his chief sports adviser, as director of the program and worked with international biathlon authorities on charges that top biathletes were using performance-enhancing drugs banned in international competition.

The Russian biathlon team had moderate success in Sochi, winning its only gold in the mens’ biathlon relay on the last day of competition with Prokhorov, Kushchenko, by then a member of the Nets board of directors, and other Nets executives in the stands. Not long after Sochi, Prokhorov and Kushchenko resigned their positions.

Now, however, two members of the women’s biathlon team have had their medals revoked and been banned for life by the International Olympic Committee. Earlier this week, Prokhorov said that if the women wanted to sue Rodchenkov, now living in the United States, he’d be willing to finance it.

“If Yana Romanova and Olga Vilukhina decide to fight and defend their honor, I’m ready to provide any legal and financial support,"Prokhorov told TASS on Tuesday.

“I am sure that one of the court proceedings should be opened in the United States, where ‘death trader’ Rodchenkov can be questioned during the trial. Our athletes should have an opportunity to personally face the man whose words provided the basis for the outrage of sporting lawlessness," he added.

Of course, any such lawsuit would open the biathletes —and now Prokhorov— to questioning and would require production of documents and other evidence.