January 3 – Grigory Rodchenkov, the whistle-blower whose revelations led to the explosive doping scandal that rocked Russian sport, is now free to talk to FIFA about the extent to which football was involved according to agency reports.
Last week, most likely under pressure from FIFA president Gianno Infantino. Russia’s 2018 World Cup chief Vitaly Mutko unexpectedly stepped down both from that role and as head of the Russian Football Union, insisting he had done nothing wrong and was stepping aside solely in order to clear his name.
Speculation now suggests the timing may have had something to do with Rodchenkov being free to spill the beans to FIFA over Mutko’s alleged involvement in the scandal. According to the infamous report drawn up by Canadian professor Richard McLaren, 34 Russian footballers were involved in state-sponsored doping at the time Mutko was sports minister.
“Dr. Rodchenkov was only recently available to testify in legal proceedings initiated by international federations,” a World Anti-Doping Agency spokesman was quoted as saying . “He could not do it before because of restrictions put in place by US authorities following an ongoing investigation in the United States.”
Rodchenkov is the former director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory who fled to the United States in 2016 saying he feared for his life after the sudden death of two senior officials in the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA).
He then provided information which led to an investigation of doping at the Sochi Winter Games in 2014. Since then, Russian athletes have been banned from the Rio Olympics in 2016 and Russia has been barred from February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea though athletes who are deemed “clean” can compete under the Olympic flag.
The spotlight has inevitably turned to Russia’s hosting of the World Cup in June and July – though no longer with Mutko, once one of FIFA’s most influential officials, in charge of operations.
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