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If you haven’t caught up with the news about the McLaren Report prepared for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on doping in Russian sport, you can find the full report here. It doesn’t make for pretty reading, detailing state-sanctioned doping in nearly all sports, including football. 

It also implicates the organisations that run sport in Russia including the Ministry of Sport headed by the Minister, Vitaly Mutko.

Putting aside his other sporting interests, Mr Mutko holds many positions in football alone.

  • He is on the executive committee of UEFA.
  • He is on the FIFA Council and was an Executive Committee member since 2009.
  • He is President of the Russian Football Union.
  • He is President of the Organising Committee of the 2018 World Cup.

He is also a former President of Zenit St Petersburg.

Amongst a litany of abhorrent cheating and cover-ups, Professor McLaren notes “beyond reasonable doubt” that Mutko personally intervened to cover up a doping case of at least one foreign footballer in the Russian Premier League. While nowhere near the scale of doping in other sports, notably athletics, the report alleged an additional 11 positive tests of Russian football players were made to disappear in the state-sponsored doping program from late 2011 to 2015.

We’re waiting to hear what the substantive reaction is from FIFA or UEFA.

To date, FIFA has said nothing more than they “acknowledge the recommendations” and have requested details. Oh yay. 

We should be demanding more – because this is an opportunity for FIFA and UEFA to demonstrate that they stand for the integrity of their sport. Experience suggests that we ought not to hold out much hope when it comes to FIFA and Russia. One of FIFA’s premium sponsors is Gazprom and they can’t afford to put them offside. And, after all, it was Russia who told FIFA investigators that they couldn’t possibly assist with the inquiry into the 2018/2022 World Cup bids as they had ‘thrown-out’ their computers and couldn’t remember anything. 

In a first from one sport organisation to another, WADA has recommended that the FIFA Ethics Committee should “look into allegations concerning football and the role played by” Mr Mutko. 

Campaign group, #NewFIFANow (of which I am a co-founder) agrees. But we also go further. We have issued a statement today calling on FIFA and UEFA to suspend Mr Mutko pending investigation, potential further action and sanctions. Doping, like match-fixing, strikes at the heart of everything sport is supposed to be about: integrity, fair play, team work, discipline and pure competition. 

#NewFIFANow also states that Russia’s role as host of the 2017 and 2018 Confederations Cup must be in doubt for a compelling reason that puts the integrity of the sport at the centre of decision-making: “Any nation that sanctions such activity should not be rewarded with hosting football’s showpiece event.”

Don’t hold your breath. 

Finally, a word about Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanova who blew the whistle on what was going on in Russian sport. Yuliya is the 800m elite runner; her husband Vitaly worked in the doping laboratory.

They have shown incredible courage. They are in hiding.

Russia, Mutko and sport’s entrenched ‘whatever-it-takes-to-stay-in-power’ interests are likely to fight the McLaren Report; but let’s hope at least that this is the beginning of Yuliya and Vitaly being able to live their lives without fear and with the appreciation that is due to them. 

Postscript

The football world being what it is, I have met all the people mentioned in this article. I met Vitaly Mutko, and others involved with the Russian World Cup Bid, in 2009. I met Professor Dick McLaren for the first time three years ago. And I had the honour of sharing a conference platform with the Stepanova’s last year.


Categories: Opinion | Football Business

fifa, mclaren report, russia 2018, vitaly mutko

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