Russian doping whistle-blower raises fears over Russia World Cup legitimacy

Vladimir Putin’s strong-arm tactics of suppressing opposition within and outside of Russia stretches to sport, as Rodchenkov’s evidence to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) shows. (AFP)
Updated 31 May 2018

Russian doping whistle-blower raises fears over Russia World Cup legitimacy

LONDON: Whistle-blower Grigory Rodchenkov has raised fears over the legitimacy of Russia’s World Cup team after revealing one unnamed player among their provisional squad is familiar to him from his time running the nation’s state-sponsored doping program.
Saudi Arabia kick-off the 2018 World Cup on June 14 with the hosts under a cloud of political and sporting controversy which threatens to spoil their party.
Vladimir Putin’s strong-arm tactics of suppressing opposition within and outside of Russia stretches to sport, as Rodchenkov’s evidence to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) led to the publishing of the McLaren Report in 2016 which revealed the country’s widespread doping across a number of sports.
As a result, Rodchenkov is under witness protection in the US under fear of his life, and spoke via Skype to the Sports, Politics and Integrity Conference in London on Thursday from a secret location and with his face obscured by a balaclava.
The former head of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory, which was responsible for covering up positive tests, most famously before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, knew of 34 footballers who tested positive for corticosteroids.
Rodchenkov said that former Sports Minister and head of the Russian Football Union Vitaly Mutko told him: “Football must be protected. Don’t touch football players. If you have any problems report to me immediately. There were 34 footballers who tested positive. These positives ‘disappeared’.
“There were 34 footballers listed in the doping control program, playing at junior, under-23, ladies and senior levels. It’s very important that they are still being investigated because we had initial tests but then the procedure was stopped and reported negative.
“I recognize only one name from the list for the national team.”
Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov is still to trim his 28-man squad to the final 23, which means the player familiar to Rodchenkov could be omitted but with just two weeks to go until the tournament, the uncertainty is perhaps the most concerning aspect.
Rodchenkov admits that doping in football pales in comparison to weightlifting and athletics and expects a “clean” World Cup with no positive tests because, “it will only be foreign doping control.”
But he also claimed that FIFA were far from thorough when examining evidence he presented to them in the wake of the McLaren Report. Last week FIFA ruled the 34 positive tests flagged had been re-tested and found to be clean by their lab in Lausanne.
Rodchenkov added: “I received a list of questions from FIFA, 60 of them.
“I didn’t have detailed information for some but I answered all of the questions. Seemingly FIFA were satisfied and there were no follow-up questions.”


Barcelona beaten by Valencia in early blow for Setien

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in action against Valencia’s Francis Coquelin during their La Liga match in Valencia on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 26 January 2020

Barcelona beaten by Valencia in early blow for Setien

  • Uruguayan striker Maxi Gomez misses a penalty, hits the crossbar in the first half

VALENCIA: Quique Setien’s honeymoon period lasted less than a fortnight as he tasted his first Barcelona defeat on Saturday in his second La Liga game in charge after a 2-0 loss to Valencia.

Maxi Gomez’s strike and a Jordi Alba own goal at Mestalla handed Barca their fourth league defeat of the campaign, giving Real Madrid the chance to move three points clear of the champions at the top of the table when they visit Real Valladolid on Sunday.
Barcelona had most of the ball but their opponents had the best chances as Gomez missed a penalty and also hit the crossbar in the first half. Gabriel Paulista saw a third goal ruled out late on.
While performances under previous coach Ernesto Valverde were stodgy, he left a team that sat top of the table.
Setien promised a new style but despite dominating possession, Barcelona went nowhere with it and as Valencia grew in confidence, they ceded control.
“It should not take us long,” Setien had said on Friday, when asked how quickly his players could adapt to his methods.
Valencia climb to fifth and continue to improve under Albert Celades. This success came without their captain Dani Parejo and, largely, without star striker Rodrigo Moreno, who has been linked with a January move to Barcelona.
The hosts hardly touched the ball for the first six minutes, their fans whistling as they urged a more aggressive approach.
But the plan was to sit and absorb and it worked, with Barcelona unable to cut through or create a single clear chance.
And when Valencia did intervene, they were more dangerous too. With their first attack they won a penalty as Jose Gaya slipped past Gerard Pique and would surely have scored from eight yards before being brought down.
Pique was booked and, with Parejo absent, Gomez stepped up, only for his driven shot to be well saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, albeit with the help of half a yard’s headstart off his line.
Barca were riding their luck. Sergi Roberto’s header cannoned off Pique but fell just close enough for Ter Stegen, who parried a Gomez shot onto the crossbar and almost spilled another to Kevin Gameiro.
Referee Gil Manzano put his hands together as if to apologize after failing to play advantage when Ferran Torres was clear but the frustration of Valencia’s fans turned to ecstasy shortly after half time.
Pique’s flicked header landed at the feet of Gomez, whose driven effort took a cruel deflection off Alba and flew in.
Setien traded the patience of Arthur Melo for the physicality of Arturo Vidal and Rodrigo came on to a rousing reception.
Barcelona exerted some pressure and Lionel Messi led the way, hauled to the ground by Francis Coquelin and then denied by a brilliant Gabriel tackle. He fired past the post, headed wide and saw a curling free kick saved.
Yet just as a Barcelona equalizer began to feel inevitable, Valencia struck again. A quick throw caught Alba out of position and Torres did well to cut inside and switch to Gomez. He took a touch and curled into the corner.
Gabriel thought he had a third after volleying in from a corner but VAR persuaded Manzano there had been a push. When Messi ballooned a late free kick into the stands, Valencia knew their win was secure.

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