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FIFA: Doping Probe Unlikely to Cost Russia World Cup

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USA TODAY

 

FIFA President Gianni Infantino appeared to guarantee Russia's status as host of the 2018 World Cup on Monday, even as soccer's global governing body opened a preliminary investigation into claims of state-sponsored doping offenses.

Calls have grown in recent days for Russia to be stripped of its right to host the event after the release of details contained in the second McLaren report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The report included emails allegedly proving that drug test samples given by Russian youth national team players had been concealed by a government-backed laboratory.

However, Infantino indicated in an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel that pulling the event was not an option.

"Boycotts and bans have never solved any problems," said Infantino, who won the FIFA presidency in February after the ouster of Sepp Blatter.

FIFA has received evidence from WADA that directly pertains to its soccer findings and is looking into links between the doping infractions and Vitaly Mutko, a prominent Russian politician.

Mutko was Vladimir Putin's minister for sport at the time Russia was awarded the World Cup and also during the height of the alleged doping coverup. He has since been promoted to deputy prime minister and remains a member of the FIFA council.

"FIFA is now reviewing the evidence provided by WADA after the final McLaren report, and based on this information FIFA will take the appropriate next steps in accordance with the anti-doping regulations," FIFA said in a statement released Monday.

Two FIFA officials told USA TODAY Sports earlier Monday that the investigation could have a serious impact on Russia's World Cup plans. However, both said later that without the support of Infantino, any move to retract hosting rights was likely unworkable.

The officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation.

The McLaren report showed that players from Russia's under-21 national team had results of suspicious samples covered up. Some of those players have gone on to play for the senior Russian national team.

Taking the World Cup away from Russia would create a difficult but not impossible dilemma for FIFA. With 18 months remaining before the tournament, there would still be time to find a replacement host, likely a major soccer nation with appropriate stadiums and infrastructure in place.

Infantino though, seems to be steadfastly against it.

"FIFA is no police and certainly not the world doping police," Infantino said. "FIFA is the international governing body for football."

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December 20, 2016
 
 
 

 

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