FIFA has rejected claims by UK tabloid the Mail on Sunday that it covered up cases of doping by Russian footballers.
In a typically sensationalist yet logic-light piece, Mail on Sunday journalist Nick Harris claimed that “FIFA had documentary proof of institutional cover-ups in Russian football 18 months ago — but have apparently done nothing to hold Russia’s FA or Sports Ministry to account.”
Harris stated that Russia’s winning start to their home World Cup – which has seen them score eight goals in two games and top the stats for distances covered by players in game – has led to “renewed doubts about the trustworthiness of the national team.”
He then claimed he could reveal that “there is strong evidence that elite Russian footballers were beneficiaries of widespread states-sponsored doping and cover-ups,” saying that FIFA had turned a blind eye to the issue.
He singled out defender Ruslan Kambolov, who was in Russia’s initial extended World Cup squad before being removed through injury, as someone who had seen his urine samples swapped as part of a doping cover-up. FIFA closed its investigation into claims of doping in Russian football back in May, saying it had found no evidence to bear out claims of the use of illegal substance.
It rejected the latest claims from Harris, saying: “As usual Mr Harris provides the public with a very selective view of the facts.
“His article gives ample space to the opinions of people external to the investigations and voluntarily fails to state the key point of this matter: FIFA’s investigations were conducted in collaboration with WADA and WADA agreed with FIFA’s conclusions.”
FIFA also pointed out that Harris had neglected to include its position in his article, which the organization had provided to him ahead of publication.
It also referred to the previous case that had concluded that “insufficient evidence was found to assert an anti-doping rule violation by any [Russian] footballer.”
“We can only conclude that Mr Harris believes that WADA’s position is not relevant in this case,” FIFA said in a scathing response.
The initial investigation into allegations of doping in Russian football was launched by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) following the publication of Part II of the McLaren Report in December 2016.
WADA initially informed FIFA that 34 football samples identified in the report might potentially have benefitted from manipulation.
However, FIFA closed the case in May of this year, finding no evidence to substantiate the claims.
That has not stopped the Mail on Sunday from dragging up the case. With its pre-tournament narrative of a thug-infested World Cup now quickly falling apart, the tabloid appears to be clamoring to drag up something – anything – with which to hurl at Russia, no matter how spurious.
All drug testing at Russia 2018 is being carried out in Switzerland, and Russian nationals have been completely removed from the process.