Ger­many urges FIFA to en­sure dop­ing ex­pert gets Rus­sia visa

Foot­ball

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - SPORT -

Ger­man of­fi­cials called on the global soc­cer fed­er­a­tion FIFA to in­ter­vene yes­ter­day after a jour­nal­ist who ex­posed sys­tem­atic dop­ing in Rus­sian ath­let­ics was de­nied en­try to Rus­sia to re­port on the up­com­ing World Cup.

Dag­mar Fre­itag, who chairs the Ger­man Par­lia­ment's sports com­mit­tee, said the can­cel­la­tion of Hajo Sep­pelt's visa was "not just com­pletely un­jus­ti­fied, but pretty scan­dalous."

Fre­itag told Ger­man news agency dpa she was "anx­ious to see how (FIFA chief Gianni) In­fantino re­acts."

Rein­hard Grindel, the head of the Ger­man soc­cer fed­er­a­tion, also noted FIFA's pledge to up­hold press free­dom. He told dpa he had "full con­fi­dence FIFA will use its in­flu­ence so Mr. Sep­pelt can re­port un­hin­dered from Rus­sia."

Sep­pelt works for Ger­man pub­lic broad­caster ARD. FIFA con­firmed that it had al­ready ap­proved his ac­cred­i­ta­tion re­quest and was try­ing to ob­tain fur­ther in­for­ma­tion from Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties about the case.

"Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the free­dom of the press is of para­mount im­por­tance to FIFA, and we al­ways aim to pro­vide me­dia rep­re­sen­ta­tives with the best pos­si­ble con­di­tions for cov­er­age of all FIFA events," the fed­er­a­tion said in a state­ment.

ARD said Sep­pelt's visa was de­clared in­valid Fri­day on the grounds that he was on a list of peo­ple who are "per­sona non grata" in Rus­sia.

Ger­man op­po­si­tion law­maker An­nalena Baer­bock told Ger­man weekly Welt am Son­ntag that the case should be a fur­ther rea­son for gov­ern­ment min­is­ters to stay away from the World Cup, which runs from June 14 to July 15.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel is sched­uled to meet with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Rus­sia, on Fri­day to dis­cuss bi­lat­eral ties and in­ter­na­tional crises such as Syria and the nu­clear agree­ment with Iran.

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