Russia 2018 boss Alexey Sorokin says doping claims are 'made-up news'

26 June 2017 05:24

Russia 2018 boss Alexey Sorokin has dismissed a newspaper report that the Russian squad from the 2014 World Cup is under a FIFA investigation for doping as "made-up news".

This is despite world football's governing body confirming that the Mail on Sunday report was correct.

The story is based on the 34 footballers identified in Professor Richard McLaren's 2016 report into Russia's state-sponsored doping programme, which involved more than 1,000 athletes from over 30 sports.

The governing bodies of each of those sports have been sent all of the evidence McLaren and his team uncovered, and are currently supposed to be working through with a view to pursuing anti-doping cases against individual athletes.

In a statement, a FIFA spokesperson "simply confirmed that, in close collaboration with (the World Anti-Doping Agency), it is still investigating the allegations involving football players in the so-called McLaren report".

FIFA would not, however, refer to any particular players as it is a live investigation, although the spokesperson said it is in FIFA's interest to resolve the issue as soon as possible, before adding that all tests done on Russian players at the 2014 World Cup and ongoing Confederations Cup have been negative.

But speaking at a press conference in St Petersburg to mark the end of the World Cup warm-up event's group stages, the chief executive of the organising committee for Russia 2018 took a page out of United States president Donald Trump's book and rejected the story out of hand.

When asked by a reporter what his first reaction was to reading the story, Sorokin said: "My first emotion to the Mail on Sunday focusing on such issues was that the (Confederations Cup) must be going well because they focusing on things from the past.

"It's very bizarre this is appearing now - it's clear it's made-up news. We have received confirmation from FIFA that the players have been tested pre- and post-match and all results have been negative.

"Most of the players play regularly in European competitions with their clubs and, in general, there hasn't been a positive test in Russian football for many years. So we don't consider this to be a serious matter and it's very strange that it's in the papers."

When told by reporters the issue is not whether players have tested positive but whether they have been named by McLaren as beneficiaries of the sample-swapping scam run by the Russian anti-doping agency and Moscow laboratory between 2011 and 2015, Sorokin attacked McLaren's main witness, Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of that laboratory.

"It's speculation that has appeared on the basis of an incredible witness," Sorokin said.

Fearing for his life, Rodchenkov fled Russia in January 2016 and is now living in hiding in America as part of the federal government's witness protection scheme.

But this was not before he had a chance to tell his remarkable story to a handful of reporters, documentary-makers and anti-doping investigators, the most significant of these being McLaren, who was then able to corroborate Rodchenkov's claims from other witnesses and forensic evidence.

The most stunning revelation was how Rodchenkov and the Russian sports ministry masterminded the sabotage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi by using a secret service agent to swap dirty samples from Russian athletes for clean ones - collected months before - through a hole in the laboratory wall.

With Russia's track and field team already excluded from the Rio Olympics because of an earlier WADA-sponsored investigation, the International Olympic Committee declined to ban the entire delegation from last year's Games, although the International Paralympic Committee did ban them.

This has prompted some to ask if Russia could be stripped of the right to host next year's World Cup, although neither Sorokin nor FIFA's chief competitions and events officer Colin Smith even acknowledged this possibility in the St Petersburg press conference.

But WADA said it " eagerly awaits the outcomes of FIFA's examination of the evidence" it was sent by McLaren, before outlining, in great detail, FIFA's obligations as signatories of the WADA Code.

WADA's statement makes it clear that all relevant sports federations should be examining the McLaren evidence, matching it with their own information to see if there are any anti-doping rule violations and then informing WADA of their work, with the anti-doping organisation having the right to appeal if any signatory fails in its duty to punish cheating.

Source: PA