LONDON — Dealing with Russia and its doping program haunted the International Olympic Committee for over a year. Now it's FIFA's turn. With the Russia World Cup six months away, leaders of the antidoping movement are criticizing soccer's governing ...and more »
FIFA said it initially tried to contact Rodchenkov last year through WADA but was told he was not available. In a statement Tuesday, FIFA said it was awaiting the reanalysis of the samples of Russian athletes who were implicated by a trove of data obtained from Moscow in November before trying to re-establish contact with Rodchenkov. The reanalysis of the doping samples, expected to happen later this month, may be necessary to establish further evidence to successfully discipline athletes. The lab in Switzerland that is conducting the analysis is giving priority to samples from the tainted 2014 Winter Olympics before the Winter Games next month in South Korea.
“FIFA will continue its investigations, working in close collaboration with WADA and exploring every possible avenue,” FIFA officials said in the prepared statement.
James Walden, a lawyer for Rodchenkov, said FIFA officials had never gotten in touch with him.
Tygart said that was unacceptable. “Frankly, it’s exasperating. Clean athletes and the public deserve to have the impact of Russian doping on football, if any, resolved immediately. We are over three years into dealing with this mess and there is no excuse for FIFA failing to contact the star witness at this point,” Tygart said Tuesday.
Rodchenkov is currently in hiding in the United States. His testimony ultimately led to the International Olympic Committee’s decision in December to ban Russia’s Olympic Committee from next month’s Winter Olympics. After conducting their own investigation, the I.O.C.’s investigators surmised that Rodchenkov, branded a traitor in Russia, had largely been telling the truth.
Rodchenkov has evidence of Russian soccer players being protected by the state doping program, according to Walden. Those claims first appeared in the explosive 2016 report for the World Anti-Doping Agency from the Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren. McLaren based his report on forensic evidence and the cooperation of Rodchenkov. The report said more than 1,000 athletes from across 30 sports may have had their samples covered up, including soccer players that were on Russia’s 2014 World Cup roster.
FIFA released a timeline of its investigation so far, which has yielded no evidence of doping by Russian soccer players. Critics say the organization is trying to avoid acrimony with the country that is playing host to the World Cup next summer. FIFA said if it can find evidence “to demonstrate an antidoping rule violation by any athlete, FIFA will impose the appropriate sanction.”
“For all the time and work FIFA put into this defensive timeline, it could have picked up the phone and arranged an interview of Dr. Rodchenkov 10 times over,” said Walden, the lawyer for Rodchenkov.
Grigory Rodchenkov, the whistle-blower and former head of a Moscow antidoping lab that handled testing during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, has not been contacted by FIFA. Credit Emily Berl for The New York TimesRodchenkov remains an active participant in the ongoing process in which scores of athletes have been barred following a reanalysis of their samples. He plans to provide witness testimony to the Court of Arbitration for Sport during appeals proceedings for sanctioned Russian athletes.
FIFA is trying to manage the doping inquiry amid lingering scrutiny of its ability to reform in the aftermath of a sprawling corruption scandal in 2015. That scandal brought down most of its top leadership. Three of its former governance leaders recently published an article in which they concluded FIFA couldn’t be trusted to change under its own steam, and that outside intervention was needed.
Tygart said FIFA’s performance showed “why reform to the global antidoping system must start with removing sport from attempting to police itself, because you can’t both promote and police effectively — as this clearly shows.”
The Russia World Cup has had other problems, too. Sponsors have been slow to sign on for what is the world’s most-watched event. Russia’s broadcasters finally signed a deal to broadcast the tournament in late December after more than a year of balking at FIFA’s demands.
President Gianni Infantino’s efforts to generate excitement for the tournament were torpedoed when a news conference before last month’s World Cup draw was overshadowed by questions about doping and the continued presence of Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s deputy prime minister, as head of the organizing committee. Mutko had days earlier received a lifetime ban from the Olympics for his role in the doping scandal. He had been Russia’s sports minister at the time of the Sochi Games.
Mutko has since stepped down from the organizing committee and temporarily resigned from his post as head of Russian soccer’s governing body.
Jiri Dvorak, FIFA’s top doctor for 22 years until his ouster in October 2016, expressed surprise that his former employers had yet to reach out to Rodchenkov. Dvorak had an active role the last time a drugs scandal threatened to overcome the tournament.
In 1994, he resisted pressure from some of FIFA’s most senior officials when the Argentine superstar Diego Maradona, then among the most famous men on the planet, was ousted for failing a drug test. “That was against opinion of some of the South Americans. But Maradona had to be removed because when it comes to things like this you have to act according to the laws and the regulations,” he said.
The I.O.C. has defended its own prolonged investigation that ultimately reiterated what had largely been known for more than a year. The organization blamed the delay on the challenge of coming up with a scientific test that could categorically confirm the claims that bottles containing urine samples had been tampered with. Investigators in November also secured the crucial data from Russia’s drug testing laboratory that helped the I.O.C. to identify athletes whose positive tests had been covered up.
Rodchenkov’s lawyer said while there may have been some natural skepticism when the whistle-blower first made the claims of a widespread doping conspiracy, the chemist’s credibility as a witness has been strengthened by the world’s antidoping regulator, its independent investigator and now the I.O.C.
“There’s overwhelming evidence showing that he’s told the truth,” Walden said. “At this point we would have thought FIFA would want to talk to him as one of its first priorities.”
FIFA hasn’t hired an independent investigator to analyze the suspected doping cases. So far no soccer samples have been analyzed by the Lausanne laboratory that developed the complex tests to detect anomalies in Russian samples. FIFA has asked for its samples to be given priority after the last of the Sochi samples are tested later this month.
Dvorak, now a consulting neurologist at Zurich’s Schulthess Clinic, said FIFA needed to act quickly to avoid allowing the Russian team to play under a cloud of suspicion. Reedie, the WADA president, added that it was up to the federations to verify WADA’s information and act accordingly.
“We want them to go ahead and act on this because they are responsible for the results,” he said.
World Cup (Soccer),Corruption (Institutional),Steroids,International Federation of Association Football (FIFA),Infantino Gianni,Rodchenkov Grigory