Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the source of revelations about Moscow's state-sponsored doping, claims in a German TV report to be broadcast on Monday that President Vladimir Putin ordered the conspiracy.
“Of course it came all the way from the top, from the president,” Rodchenkov told German public broadcaster ARD in a phone interview, according to a report on the station’s website.
“Because only the president can deploy the domestic secret service FSB for such a special task,” he is quoted as saying in the German-language report.
Putin “could not deny” knowledge of the scheme, Rodchenkov adds in the report.
Rodchenkov is the former director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory who fled to the United States in 2016 saying he feared for his life after the sudden death of two senior officials from Russia’s anti-doping agency.
Russia has been banned from taking part in the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics although individual athletes who prove themselves to be clean can compete under strict conditions and under a neutral flag.
Rodchenkov also said he was convinced that Putin was kept informed about all details of the programme by Vitali Mutko, the then sports minister and current vice premier.
He said that in his own former post, he reported to then-vice sports minister Yuri Nagornikh, who in turn reported to Mutko, who reported to Putin.
Rodchenkov also claimed that, before the 2014 Sochi Games, Russia had run a state-organized doping system at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games.
Since he fled Russia in late 2015, Rodchenkov has entered an FBI witness protection programme, while Russia has issued an international warrant for his arrest.
“I enjoy every day I’m still alive,” Rodchenkov said in the interview.
Russia was suspended in August 2016 following revelations of widespread state-sponsored doping uncovered in a report by Richard McLaren on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Neither WADA nor the International Olympic Committee has linked Putin to the conspiracy, only pointing to the sports ministry and slapping lifetime Olympic bans on Nagornikh and Mutko.