May 13 – The head of Russia’s 2018 World Cup organising committee Alexey Sorokin says he has been assured by new FIFA president Gianni Infantino the tournament will go ahead as planned despite allegations of corruption and the still be to be concluded Swiss probe into the bid process for both 2018 and 2022.
Interviewed at the Soccerex Americas Forum in Mexico City on the eve of the FIFA Congress, where he made a guest appearance, Sorokin, who has had to endure all manner of suspicion ever since Russia were awarded host status in December 2010, said he was getting tired of the criticism and that it was time to draw a line under it.
“He (Infantino) has received all the guarantees,” said Sorokin. “We have been tolerating all of the allegations but it’s getting very tiresome. This matter is now closed.”
Sorokin also insisted the doping scandal that have shaken Russian sport in recent weeks will have no bearing on preparations for the World Cup.
Russia’s athletics federation is currently suspended from global competition after a damning report into widespread doping by an independent commission appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency last year.
“We have admitted that that this problem does exist. It is a big challenge we are facing and will have to deal with. Our country is taking measures to rebuild reputation of RUSADA (The Russian Anti-Doping Agency),” Sorokin said.
“I am not an expert in such matters. But I don’t think it might have any impact of the preparations for the World Cup and the Confederations Cup.”
Ironically Sorokin was being interviewed just as Russian Premier League side Rostov had their entire team subjected to a random doping test following a match against Dinamo Moscow.
FIFA, confirming a report by Russia’s Tass news agency, said the test was routine and there were no complaints from players or officials but added in a statement that “the initiative was based on previous media reports regarding potential use of Meldonium” which is believed to increase the amount of oxygen taken in and allow athletes to recover faster while training.
Rostov only remained in the Russian top flight after a relegation playoff last season but had turned the form book on its head by being involved in the domestic title race this time.
“There were some rumours in the media about meldonium and Rostov ordering meldonium,” FIFA’s chief medical officer Jiri Dvorak was quoted as saying. “What is true on it I can’t really say anything … we are not really following every rumour but [with] the current situation with meldonium we thought it is just a good example just to do it.”
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