Fifa to look at 2014 Rus­sia World Cup team on drug is­sues

The National - News - Sport - - FOOTBALL - The Na­tional staff sports@then­ational.ae

The 23 play­ers in the Rus­sia squad at the 2014 World Cup are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by Fifa over pos­si­ble drug of­fences, it has emerged.

Rus­sia is cur­rently host­ing the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup, a tour­na­ment they ex­ited at the group stage on Satur­day fol­low­ing de­feat to Mex­ico, and are also set to host the World Cup on home soil in less than a year.

Five of the 23 play­ers tested at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were part of Stanislav Cherch­esov’s squad at the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup.

A re­port in Eng­land’s Mail On Sun­day al­leges that Rus­sia’s en­tire 23-man squad, who were elim­i­nated in the group stages in Brazil three years ago, were among 34 Rus­sian foot­ballers be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by world foot­ball’s gov­ern­ing body over pos­si­ble drug of­fences.

Al­though there is no proof of any anti-dop­ing vi­o­la­tions, the play­ers are said to be among 1,000 “peo­ple of in­ter­est” to the of­fi­cials tasked with un­cov­er­ing whether Rus­sia’s state-spon­sored and dop­ing cover-up that has al­ready iden­ti­fied hun­dreds of Rus­sian ath­letes across the sports spec­trum has spread its ten­ta­cles to foot­ball.

“Fifa is still in­ves­ti­gat­ing the al­le­ga­tions made against [Rus­sian] foot­ball play­ers,” a Fifa spokesman told the Mail On Sun­day. Dick Pound, a for­mer head of the World Anti-Dop­ing Agency (Wada), told the Mail On Sun­day: “There is a huge onus on Fifa to reach a sen­si­ble con­clu­sion on these mat­ters be­fore the World Cup takes place.

“It is in­cum­bent on them to say what steps they are tak­ing, what they find, and take what­ever action nec­es­sary to pro­tect the in­tegrity of sport.

“Even within a gov­ern­ing body with as lit­tle cred­i­bil­ity re­main­ing as Fifa, if you were a se­nior of­fi­cial you wouldn’t want to be part of a body that ig­nores this.”

Pound said there had been “in­sti­tu­tional de­nial of dop­ing in foot­ball for years” and urged that Fifa “ab­so­lutely have to take this case se­ri­ously”.

More than 100 Rus­sia ath­letes were barred from com­pet­ing at last year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, in­clud­ing al­most all of its track and field team, af­ter be­ing found guilty of anti-dop­ing vi­o­la­tions.

The new al­le­ga­tions, cou­pled with con­cerns over hooli­gan­ism and the mis­treat­ment of mi­grant work­ers work­ing on the coun­try’s sta­di­ums to stage World Cup matches, are likely to throw Rus­sia’s suit­abil­ity to stage the 2018 fi­nals into se­ri­ous doubt.

The Rus­sian Foot­ball Union is yet to re­spond to the al­le­ga­tions.

Kerim Ok­ten / EPA

The 2014 Rus­sia World Cup squad – now un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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