Football can’t take moral high ground over doping
A cackle of barely suppressed laughter could be heard all the way from Zurich, along the twisting roads to Lausanne, as the International Olympic Committee tripped headlong over its moral compass amid the Russian doping farrago.
Not that FIFA has any right to selfsatisfaction after the litany of scandals generated by the venal avarice of a long list of leaders, directors, officials and hangers-on, past and present.
But Schadenfreude was a popular word considering how IOC president Thomas Bach had lectured FIFA on how his movement had sorted itself out two decades ago.
The IOC’s sin was in shutting its eyes to doping malpractice under its nose in the sports which comprise the heart of its Olympic programme, such as track and field athletics, swimming, rowing and weightlifting.
This is not to say that doping is not an issue in football. The use of substances on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list is suspected to be more prevalent than admitted, but often it’s only so-called “social drugs” which are uncovered by random testing.
The muddle around doping in football was underlined with the case of Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho. His reputation and career were scarred after France’s then vice-captain tested positive for a “fat burner” after a Europa League tie against Manchester United at Old Trafford in March.
He served an initial 30-day suspension but the ban was not extended after further investigation doubted whether the specific substance was even on the WADA banned list.
But before UEFA tardily reached the conclusion that Sakho had no case to answer, France coach Didier Deschamps had been left with no option but to drop the 26-year-old from Les Bleus’ Euro 2016 squad.
The Olympic doping storm followed media investigations and interviews which prompted WADA to commission reports containing damning allegations about a state-led Russian strategy of doping and cover-up. The second report was compiled, hurriedly, by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren, provoking demands – which the IOC ultimately ignored – for a blanket ban of Russia from the Rio Olympics.
Football was not directly involved since Russia had failed to qualify for both the men’s and women’s Olympic tournaments. However, McLaren’s report did point a finger for responsibility at Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko, who is also president of both his country’s 2018 World Cup organising committee and the Russian Football Union, as well as a member of the FIFA Council and UEFA executive committee.
In his report, McLaren said it was “inconceivable” that Mutko had not been aware of what was being undertaken in the name of Russian sporting ambition.
In his 110-page dossier, McLaren notes that Mutko in person had “saved” a foreign footballer playing in Russia from discovery under a sophisticated cover-up system operated with the connivance of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory. McLaren’s report also alleged an additional 11 positive tests of Russian players had been “made to disappear” between 2011 and 2015.
McLaren said that during his investigation he had undertaken an interview with Mutko which had proved “singularly unhelpful”. This would not have surprised FIFA ethics investigator Cornel Borbely, who had been blanked similarly when he was tasked with checking out Russia’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup.
Borbely, then assistant to Michael Garcia, had been handed the Russia brief because the American attorney was barred from Russia over his work for the US DoJ in a previous, unrelated criminal investigation.
When Borbely demanded to see Russia’s bid
Accused...Russian sports minister and World Cup boss Vitaly Mutko