William Hill’s ‘Sports Book of the Year’ (#SBOTY2020) award was won by The Rodchenkov Affair’, a riveting account of Russia’s state-backed doping programme by whistleblower Dr Grigory Rodchenkov.
The judging panel of William Hill, chaired by The Times sports journalist Alyson Rudd, stated that, given the amazing revelations, captivating narrative and far-reaching effects of Rodchenkov’s book, there was just no contest for the top honour.
Rodchenkov was currently the main whistleblower of Russia’s 2015 ‘RUSADA scandal’ in hiding, which exposed Russia’s sophisticated state-financed athlete doping scheme, described by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as the ‘biggest scandal in the history of world sports’.
Initially announced during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the aftermath of the scandal saw the IOC ban Russia from all syndicated international events for four years, with the country refusing to compete in the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games and the 2022 FIFA Qatar World Cup.
The Rodchenkov Affair has been branded by literary critics as a must-read disclosure detailing the Kremlin’s influence over all Russian sports programmes and agencies, used by the Putin regime as a further political tool against opponents and as a way of establishing Russia’s new identity on the global stage.
For its searing transparency and courage, the Rodchenkov Affair was lauded, describing in gripping detail how RUSADA’s lead scientist helped ensure that Russian athletes who cheated by doping evaded international authorities’ detection.
Remarking on the grim consequences of Rodchenkov’s expose, Rudd said: “He is a whistleblower like few others, and he remains a ‘ghost’ now living in America, separated from his family, the price he pays for wanting to be on the side of truth.”
In becoming the 32nd recipient of William Hill’s coveted literary prize, known as the highest honour in sports literature, Rodchenkov will receive the £ 30K winner’s cheque and a leather-bound copy of his novel.
Penguin Random House’s publisher commented on the award: “We’re thrilled that this unique book has received such a prestigious award.
“The Rodchenkov Affair is a breathtakingly candid memoir, one that takes the reader on a journey through a rigged system of flawed individuals, brazen deceit and impossible moral choices, where what begins as a sporting controversy escalates into a geopolitical earthquake. It feels fitting that The Rodchenkov Affair – forged in clandestine circumstances, by an author in total seclusion, published during a year of lockdowns – is now finally getting the attention it deserves.”