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.”


Xavi donates 1 mn euros to Barcelona hospital

Updated 04 April 2020

Xavi donates 1 mn euros to Barcelona hospital

  • Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola, Rafael Nadal and Pau Gasol are among several Spanish sports stars to have donated or led fundraising campaigns to help combat the deadly virus
  • The total number of deaths in Spain stands at 11,744, second only to Italy

MADRID: Former Barcelona and Spain star Xavi Hernandez and his wife have donated one million euros ($1.08 million) to the city’s Hospital Clinic to help the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
“Xavi Hernandez and Nuria Cunillera have made a donation of one million euros to the clinic to face up to COVID-19. Thanks a lot for your help and support... All together, we will get there,” the hospital tweeted on Saturday.
“Nuria and I, we support the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona’s fight against the coronavirus. Thanks to the donations they are receiving, the hospital has acquired equipment for patients and health care professionals,” Xavi said in a video posted on his Twitter account.
The former World Cup winner and two-time European champion with Spain is currently in charge of Al-Sadd in Qatar and turned down an approach from Barcelona in January after the club sacked Ernesto Valverde.
Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola, Rafael Nadal and Pau Gasol are among several Spanish sports stars to have donated or led fundraising campaigns to help combat the deadly virus.
Spain, which is under a near-total lockdown, on Saturday recorded a second successive daily fall in coronavirus-related deaths with 809 fatalities.
The total number of deaths in the country stands at 11,744, second only to Italy.
The number of new Spanish cases also slowed at 7,026, taking the total to 124,736.