It will also, inevitably, raise questions as to why the nation is being allowed to host the tournament.
With Russia 2018 chief Vitaly Mutko on the verge of being forced out of his position because of his life ban from the Olympics, over his role in an institutional and national doping conspiracy, FIFA’s pledge to investigate football doping in the new year is a significant breakthrough.
FIFA say they’ll investigate Russian doping in football which could destroy a weak nation team
FIFA are to request that the World Anti-Doping Agency allow them priority access to new testing, which has been developed to establish beyond doubt whether Russian government security officials (FSB) tampered with sample bottles to ensure their sportsmen and women could take performance-enhancing drugs with impunity. The test can show whether bottles were opened illegally, which is an offence.
Winter sports have been prioritised for the new tests in anticipation of February’s Winter Olympics at PyeongChang, South Korea.
But Professor Richard McLaren, who investigated Russian doping for WADA, has identified 34 football samples which ‘might potentially have benefitted from manipulation’, including every member of Russia’s 2014 World Cup squad. FIFA want those suspect samples tested next month.
A spokesperson said: ‘FIFA has formally requested WADA to be given priority for this forensic analysis of stored samples. In its answer, WADA informed FIFA that the order of priority will be made by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) expert team. It is in FIFA’s interest that such procedures are finalised as early as possible.’
The pressure on experts to ensure football samples are prioritised means analysis would have to be completed swiftly and any charges or bans imposed prior to the finals.
Dick Pound, anti-doping expert and most senior IOC member, insists it can be done speedily, saying: ‘They have the data. It’s simple to determine whether or not you have a case of doping if you want to.’
If tests are found to have been manipulated it risks weakening an already poor Russia team, though for crediblity and integrity it seems impossible that FIFA can stall the analysis until after the World Cup.
A spokesperson said: ‘FIFA will continue working in close collaboration with WADA and exploring every possible avenue. Should there be enough evidence to demonstrate an anti-doping rule violation by any athlete, FIFA will impose the appropriate sanction.’
Last week FIFA was forced to deny that the removal of their previous anti-doping expert, Professor Jiri Dvorak, was related to his own investigations into doping in Russian football and said such claims were ‘completely baseless’.
The departure of Professor Dvorak means the principal anti-doping expert left working for FIFA is Martial…