Foot­ball can’t take moral high ground over dop­ing

World Soccer - - The World -

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

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