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.”


Davis master class as Lakers sink Jazz to clinch top spot

Updated 05 August 2020

Davis master class as Lakers sink Jazz to clinch top spot

  • It was the 20th time Davis has scored 20 points or more in the first half as a Laker, the first player from the franchise to achieve that feat since Kobe Bryant

ORLANDO, Florida: Anthony Davis scored 42 points as the Los Angeles Lakers clinched top seeding in the Western Conference on Monday with a 116-108 victory over the Utah Jazz.

Stung by the defeat to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, the Lakers roared back in impressive fashion to overpower a talented Utah lineup.

The win sealed top spot in the West for the Lakers for the first time since 2010, when the late Kobe Bryant would go on to lead the team to the NBA Finals crown.

On Monday, Davis stamped his class on the contest with a hefty points tally as well as coming up with 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals.

LeBron James finished with 22 points and nine assists as the Lakers finally pulled away from a stubborn Utah side.

“All the stuff we’ve been through this season, to clinch No.1 in the West means a lot but we’re not finished,” Davis said.

“It’s just one of the milestones of many to get to where we want to be.”

Davis’s points haul included 23 in the first half alone.

It was the 20th time Davis has scored 20 points or more in the first half as a Laker, the first player from the franchise to achieve that feat since Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January.

“To be in a category with him means a lot,” Davis said. “I know he’s looking down on us, cheering us on.”

Elsewhere on Monday, Fred VanVleet scored a career-high 36 points as the Toronto Raptors dug deep to defeat the Miami Heat 107-103 in their Eastern Conference clash.

VanVleet led the scoring for the Raptors with a haul that included seven three-pointers from 12 attempts as Toronto improved to 48-18 to remain in second place in the East.

VanVleet also made a big contribution defensively for the Raptors, forcing a deflection of a Jimmy Butler pass later on that denied Miami an opportunity for a game-tying score. VanVleet finished with four turnovers.

It was an all-round display that left Raptors coach Nick Nurse purring with pleasure after the victory.

“What makes his defense unique is that he doesn’t look very fast out there, but his lateral side-to-side speed and the way he can move his feet is incredible, it’s deceiving,” Nurse said of VanVleet.

Also on Monday, Nikola Jokic had a triple-double as the Denver Nuggets overpowered the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 121-113 overtime victory.

Jokic finished with 30 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a stellar performance for Denver, who improved to 44-23 with the win.

The Nuggets remain third in the Western Conference standings behind the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers.