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.”


Setien plays down Messi and Griezmann uncertainty

Updated 04 July 2020

Setien plays down Messi and Griezmann uncertainty

  • Messi’s contract is due to expire next year

MADRID: Barcelona coach Quique Setien moved to ease concerns on Saturday about the futures of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann.

Messi’s contract is due to expire next year and, according to Spanish radio station Cadena Ser, the Argentinian has stopped talks due to frustrations with the direction the club is going in.

Asked about suggestions Messi plans to leave Barcelona, Setien said: “I won’t speculate about this because I haven’t heard from him so I’m not aware of him saying anything.

“I see him well, everything else is speculation that I won’t get involved in. We speak about what we have to speak about and nothing else.”

Griezmann’s position is also in doubt after a disappointing first season since joining from Atletico Madrid.

Barcelona play away at in-form Villarreal on Sunday, with Real Madrid sitting four points clear at the top of the table.

“He’s fine, I exchanged a few words with him. He’s a great professional. He understands the situation because he’s seen it before,” Setien said about Griezmann.

“It will not affect him because he is a very positive person. We can count on him 100 percent.”

Griezmann has started three of Barca’s last four matches on the bench, including the crunch games against Sevilla and Atletico, both of which Barcelona drew.

Setien described Griezmann as “unquestionable” last month.

“I was talking about hierarchies but I haven’t said he is unquestionable. Griezmann is a great player and important to the team,” said Setien.

“When he plays, you ask me about Ansu Fati and vice-versa. Not everyone can play.

“I am not ignorant, every club has its hierarchies but at a club like Barca where there are so many players, not everyone is able to play.”

Barca’s form, as well as suggestions of unrest in the dressing room, have placed scrutiny on Setien’s job.

He has a contract until 2022, with a break clause in 2021, but it remains to be seen if he is in charge for next season, or even the Champions League in August.

“I have experienced it other times,” said Setien, when asked about the uncertainty.

“It is not something I can control. This the circus that we are in and we accept it.

“I don’t exhaust myself by reading or listening to the noise around me.”

Frenkie de Jong is not available to face Villarreal as the midfielder is still nursing a calf injury. Samuel Umtiti and Ousmane Dembele are also out.