From the next issue

Serious Doper

Jon Day

Grigory Rodchenkov’s first-hand knowledge of doping made him relatively unique in the world of anti-doping – he often already possessed personal samples of some of the rarer drugs his lab wanted to detect, which were then used to calibrate their machinery. At first he worked directly for the state. To cover for positive tests, dirty samples would be made to disappear or left in such a way that they spoiled. Some were swapped with clean samples provided by coaches, friends or relatives of the athletes. So much doping went on that ‘in some training camps, finding clean urine was a problem ... The coaches were drinking gallons of water and emptying their bladders into their athlete’s sample bottles.’ To make the clean samples match the colour of the dirty ones, Rodchenkov and his colleagues added Nescafé granules. His grandest project – the one which eventually did for him – took place during the 2014 Sochi winter games, the first Olympics to be held on Russian soil since Moscow in 1980. Sochi was to be the ‘glittering jewel’ in Putin’s crown and Rodchenkov was under pressure to produce winners.

 

Dead to the World

Hal Foster

Howlong can you be absent before you are declared dead? Do you have any civil rights during this interval – which some societies set at the biblical seven years – or are you merely the target of legal action? What happens if you return and your spouse has remarried or the kids have sold the farm? Do you have any recourse apart from revenge? In Absentees, a book about the many...

 

Two Stories

Diane Williams

Seated Woman

Oh, I had my worm’s eye view of him when I was down on the carpet to pick up my ink pen that had slipped off of my lap when I stood. I saw the canopy of his jaw, his jawbones.

God … will I never know if I make things better for Victor?

I would need to go along with him and there was no denying he was piqued, and I was putting up resistance. He wanted to show me...

Diary

Young Hong Kongers

Simon Cartledge

‘These kids are fucked,’ my American friend said. We were standing on the Harcourt Road flyover, looking down at some of the thousands of people surrounding the central government offices in Hong Kong. It was 12 June 2019, a Wednesday. The previous Sunday, a million people had marched through the streets. The following Sunday, it was two million. The protesters’ initial...

 

John Wieners

Andrea Brady

John Wieners​ once told his nephew he had met the Virgin Mary. ‘Did she say anything to you?’ Walter asked. ‘No,’ John said, ‘she doesn’t know how to speak.’ He paused. ‘But she’s learning.’ Wieners was born to a working-class family outside Boston in 1934, educated by Jesuits, and spent formative periods of his youth in New York,...

Away with Words

Away with Words

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Tallis Survives

Peter Phillips

On​ 30 January 1540 the monks of Evesham Abbey were singing the Magnificat when messengers from the king interrupted them. ‘The monastery of Evesham was suppressed by King Henry VIII … at evensong time,’ John of Alcester recorded, ‘the convent being in the choir at this verse Deposuit potentes, and would not suffer them to make an end.’ Four years into the...

 

On the Bus

Andrew O’Hagan

On London buses, the passengers no longer speak to one another. They speak on their phone, often using a different sort of voice. Most are silent behind their masks. Only the gangs of school kids offer hope for the vitality of the language: they don’t muck about, patter-wise, and they don’t spare your blushes, curse-wise. Harold Pinter once warned that writers have a tendency to...

 

What if she’s a witch?

Clare Bucknell

To Hans Kepler, the Imperial Mathematician, trying to defend his mother by taking an analytical view of the situation, Leonberg is like a depressing morality play; its population a typical collection of sinners. ‘This one had always been envious; that one had always been willing to lie for personal gain. This one had denied his mother Communion. That one was known to be violent.’

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