World Cup 2018 could be next sport caught up in Russian doping scandal

Tom Cary
The Telegraph
It is claimed some Russian footballers were among those involved in state-sponsored doping programme - AFP
It is claimed some Russian footballers were among those involved in state-sponsored doping programme - AFP

This summer’s Fifa World Cup in Russia could be the next sports event caught up in the Russian doping scandal, with an investigation into claims that some Russian footballers were among those protected by its state-sponsored doping programme gathering pace.

Jim Walden, legal counsel for Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, told Telegraph Sport that a lawyer appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency had been in touch to say that Fifa had “submitted a series of questions” for his client.

Walden expects a process to be put in place “relatively soon” to hear evidence from witnesses including Rodchenkov and Professor Richard McLaren.

McLaren’s 2016 report detailed a Russian doping programme involving more than 1,000 athletes across 30 sports, with Russia banned from next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

McLaren’s listing off 33 footballers in his report could yet impact on that country’s hosting of the tournament this summer.

“There is a lawyer appointed by WADA to basically be the coordinator [between all parties],” Walden said. “For the longest time I heard nothing from the coordinator. I now understand that Fifa’s made contact. It’s still a little unclear to me when. But I also now understand that they’ve submitted a series of questions for Dr Rodchenkov. I further understand that they’re in the process of retaining or trying to retain [an] independent investigator to follow the facts.”

Asked whether he thought this summer’s Fifa World Cup could be affected, Walden added: “While I can confirm what McLaren has already reported – which is that the Russian footballers were protected by the state doping system – the details I’m going to withhold until we have the opportunity to speak to the investigator directly.

“Hopefully now there will be a process in place relatively soon to not only find out what Dr Rodchenkov knows, but to hear other evidence, which I believe will show doping by a number of Russian footballers.”

Dan Cogan, producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary Icarus, which is about the Russian doping scandal, told The Telegraph that he believed Fifa was a “comically corrupt organisation” and he did not expect much in the way of action.

“When you have organisations that aren’t affected by shame, because they’re so deeply cynical, and their pockets are so full of money, then the only way for change to happen is through the grass roots," he said.

A spokesperson for Fifa said that football’s world governing body was handling the process “in the most serious manner, following the guidance from WADA and regularly informing them of our progress”.

He added that Fifa had requested that forensic analysis be conducted on a concrete number of samples but that it had not yet head back from an expert team appointed by WADA to determine which samples should be tested. He concluded: “Should there be enough evidence to demonstrate an anti-doping rule violation by any athlete, FIFA will impose the appropriate sanction.”

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