Football: Overnight Confed Cup goals from Australia, Chile, Germany, and Cameroon.
LESS than a year before the country hosts the world’s biggest sporting event, Russia’s football team has been plunged into a doping scandal.
British newspaper The Mail on Sunday wrote that the Russian players are being probed by FIFA as part of a broader scandal over allegations of state-backed doping in the country.
The allegations have led to calls for Russia to be stripped of hosting the FIFA World Cup, which kicks off next June.
But Russian deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko on Sunday shrugged off a report that the country’s entire 2014 World Cup squad was under FIFA investigation for doping.
Mutko — who also heads the country’s football authorities — blasted the report as “nonsense” and insisted that there has never been any problem with doping in the Russian game.
And FIFA insisted all players including all of the Russian squad underwent pre-competition and post-match tests in Brazil.
“All of which resulted negative,” a spokesman for football’s governing body said.
The statement added: “FIFA has simply confirmed that, in close collaboration with (World Anti Doping Agency) WADA, it is still investigating the allegations involving football players in the so-called McLaren report.
“However, FIFA did not refer to any particular players, since it cannot comment on the status of ongoing investigations.”
In Moscow, Mutko told TASS news agency that Russian football was clean.
“There have never been and will never be any problems with doping in our football.
“Our team are permanently being tested, they undergo doping tests after every match.”
He added: “They (The Mail on Sunday) have written some sort of nonsense. Don’t bother reading the English newspapers in the morning.”
The Mail on Sunday reported that the 2018 World Cup hosts’ squad from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and a further 11 players are being looked into after they ended up on a list of over 1000 “people of interest” compiled by world anti-doping authorities.
The article quoted a FIFA spokesman as saying that football’s governing body was “still investigating the allegations”.
There is as yet no clear proof that the players were guilty of doping despite the alleged suspicions, the newspaper added.
The latest claims threatens to cast a shadow as Russia hosts the Confederations Cup tournament a year ahead of the kick off of the World Cup in the country.
Four of the Russian players from the 2014 World Cup squad in Rio have been involved at the Confederations Cup.
Russia failed to win a game at the 2014 World Cup, drawing with South Korea and Algeria and losing to Belgium.
They were knocked out in the group stage in Brazil and Fabio Capello was later sacked as manager.
Russia was also eliminated from the Confederations Cup as host nation after losing to Portugal and Mexico in the group stage.
The latest claims have renewed calls for Russia to lose hosting duties for the World Cup.
There were calls for Russia to lose the World Cup after Russia’s state-sponsored doping during the 2012 London Olympics was reported.
Last year the US Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart said World Cup “should be removed” as host until it could prove it was compliant with doping regulations.
In The Guardian, it was reported Russia should be stripped of the World Cup after the latest claims.
“There is surely enough evidence to take the World Cup away from Russia,” Seam Ingle wrote.
“One look at Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, laughing away with Vladimir Putin at the Confederations Cup, suggests the chance of it happening are between slim and none.”
Russia was earlier accused by WADA of running a state-sponsored operation across sports to aid and protect drug cheats.
Most of Russia’s track-and-field team was banned from the Olympic Games in Rio over the doping scandal and its entire Paralympics squad was excluded.
The allegations that football might have been involved could represent a major new twist in the doping saga and could drag in some of Russia’s highest-profile sports stars.