Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has found himself caught in the middle of an embarrassing sports scandal — and, for once, it has nothing to do with his team’s play on the court.
Prokhorov allegedly paid a Russian Olympic athlete millions of rubles (the equivalent of several hundred thousand dollars) in hush money not to reveal Russia’s elaborate doping scheme.
Whisteblower Grigory Rodchenkov, who exposed Russia’s doping scandal after fleeing to the United States, alleged in sworn testimony that Prokhorov paid Russian biathlete Irina Starykh to keep her quiet after she stumbled upon the scheme, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Starykh was caught doping in Austria leading up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Rodchenkov claimed Starykh planned to expose the Russian doping program amid frustration over not being able to compete herself.
The Russian biathlete never followed through on her plan, however, as Prokhorov, who then served as the head of the Russian Biathlon Union, intervened and paid Starykh to keep her quiet, Rodchenkov claimed.
Mikhail Prokhorov allegedly dealt out hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush money, according to the Wall Street Journal.
A representative for Prokhorov dismissed the allegation as “totally irresponsible hearsay” in a statement to the Journal.
Starykh also denied the accusations.
“Rodchenkov’s statement that I received some money from Prokhorov is a lie. I didn’t receive any money,” Starykh told the Russian news agency TASS, per the Journal.
The Nets have not released a statement addressing the allegation.
Russia is banned from the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea.
(David J. Phillip/AP)
Russia was banned from the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea and fined $ 15 million as punishment for its elaborate state-sponsored doping scheme earlier this week.
The news comes on the same day as the Nets acquired former No. 3 pick Jahlil Okafor from the 76ers.
Prokhorov purchased the Nets for $ 200 million in 2009.
He recently agreed in principle to sell 49 percent minority stake in the team to Joseph Tsai, the executive vice chairman and co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, for $ 1.2 billion.