Fifa president Gianni Infantino has maintained that Russia is set to retain hosting rights to the 2018 World Cup as fresh information emerged surrounding the role of football in the wide-ranging doping scandal affecting Russian sport.
More than 1,000 Russian athletes competing in major sporting events dating back until at least 2011 were involved in an “institutionalised and disciplined” doping scheme, with the 2012 London Olympic Games corrupted on an “unprecedented scale,” according to the author of a World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) report which was revealed earlier this month.
The second part of a report by Canadian sports lawyer Richard McLaren fleshed out details of an elaborate state-sponsored doping scheme operated by Russia which were first unveiled on July 18. This month’s report stated the cover-up was refined at London 2012, along with the Russian-staged 2013 World Athletics Championships and 2014 winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, hosted by Moscow and Sochi, respectively. More than 30 sports, including football, were said to be involved in concealing positive doping samples.
The Associated Press news agency has now said players from Russia’s under-21 national team had suspicious drug-test samples covered up, citing emails released as part of the McLaren report. The emails state that there were five suspicious samples in the Russian men’s under-17 and under-21 national teams in 2013 and 2014.
Another case in the domestic Russian Premier League was allegedly covered up by then-Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who is also leading Russia 2018’s local organising committee. The Fifa Ethics Committee told the AP yesterday (Monday) that it will “examine the report thoroughly” in response to the allegations about football and the role of Mutko, who sits on the Fifa Council.
Infantino, speaking yesterday to German magazine Der Spiegel, ruled out stripping World Cup hosting rights from Russia. “Fifa is not the world police and certainly not the world doping police,” Infantino said. “Our disciplinary bodies will take care of anything in the McLaren report which has anything to do with football. Boycotts and bans have never solved any problems.”
Concerning the anti-doping processes in football, the Fifa president added: “Testing was not implemented by Brazil in 2014 or by South Africa in 2010 and won’t be carried out by Russia in 2018, but by Fifa. If something goes wrong, that will be our responsibility, but we are confident our anti-doping measures will work.”