Fifa must finally flex its muscles and deprive Russia from staging next year’s World Cup if the investigation into possible doping offences by the country’s 2014 World Cup squad prove to be true
Of course there were denials. There are always denials. It is part of the dance, the fast‑paced barynya, when it comes to Russia and doping allegations. No sooner had the Mail on Sunday revealed that the country’s entire 23-man squad for the 2014 World Cup was under investigation by Fifa for possible doping offences, than its deputy prime minister, and chairman of 2018 World Cup Russia, Vatily Mutko, put up the shutters. “There have never been and will never be any problems with doping in our football,” he said. “They have written some sort of nonsense.” He was similarly dismissive about allegations about doping in Russian athletics in 2013. So it goes.
This, of course, is the same Mutko that a World Anti-Doping Agency investigation found might have personally intervened to cover up a failed drug test by a banned foreign footballer, which meant the sample was never declared positive and he was free to keep playing. And the same Mutko who was Russia’s sports minister during the period when the Canadian law professor Richard McLaren found that more than 1,000 elite Russian athletes across 30 sports had benefited from a state-sponsored doping programme. Strangely it did not harm his political career. In fact he was promoted.