Rodchenkov expects 'clean' World Cup in Russia

by Julian GUYER
FIFA claims it has brought action against Viagogo to protect fans at the World Cup in Russia

Doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov has forecast the upcoming football World Cup finals in his native Russia will be "clean" for the duration of the month-long tournament.

Rodchenkov said Thursday that the vast sums of money on offer to top footballers meant they and those around them such as their agents, had a huge financial interest in not risking their careers by being caught doping.

He argued that this meant football was at far less risk of drug scandals than sports such as athletics and weightlifting which have long been tainted by drug-taking.

Rodchenkov also said that as no Russian officials would be involved in any anti-doping work during the World Cup, which begins on June 14, as a result of recent scandals, there was far less chance of foul play.

The former Russian Anti-Doping Agency chief provided key evidence leading to suspensions of Russian athletes from global sport, including a ban from competing under the Russian flag at February's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Rodchenkov now lives in hiding in the United States, so he addressed the Sports, Politics and Integrity conference in London by videolink, wearing a balaclava and a large pair of dark-framed spectacles to conceal his identity.

Asked about the likelihood of a "clean" World Cup in Russia, Rodchenkov replied: "That is not an easy question to answer because I'm far from Russia and have information from the internet and mass media.

"I know it will only be foreign doping control.

"It should be clean in terms of this one month of competition in Russia, because there are controls and for such a major event WADA has a special team of independent observers.

"During competitions all people are clean, most things are done out of competition.

- 'No sophisticated doping'

"There is a huge gap (between sports such as athletics and weightlifting) compared to football.

"Their most important substances were anabolic. You had to have to have special training camps out of competition and that could be hidden.

"In a football situation, it is completely the opposite. They are exposed to testing because they are coming to training camps in Spain and Turkey and Cyprus and the Canary Islands where they are exposed to doping controls.

"They have no chance for a sophisticated doping scheme.

"And on top of that, high-level football players have agents... and I knew that they try to keep them clean because they are afraid any doping case, it will ruin the career of the entourage of a particular player.

"In contrast to an athlete, any positive case and the entourage survived and continued their bad work."

FIFA, football's global governing body, announced last week it had ended a doping investigation into Russian footballers named in the country's provisional World Cup squad due to "insufficient evidence" of wrongdoing -- a decision it said had been backed by WADA.

Following the publication of the second part of the McLaren Report in December 2016, WADA informed FIFA 34 samples from footballers required more detailed examination for what football chiefs said were "possible anti-doping rule violations".

Rodchenkov, asked about the list, said: "I recognised one name out of 34 which were submitted by McLaren and then also to FIFA and FIFA sent me questions.

"Some of the names were recognised only by code names of their samples."

The suspensions of Russian athletes followed revelations based on Rodchenkov's evidence concerning a vast state-sponsored doping scheme. He alleged that tainted urine samples were switched with clean ones at the 2014 Sochi Games.

His evidence featured in a World Anti-Doping Agency report by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren that revealed a "state-sponsored" doping system in Russia that reached its peak at Sochi.

Rodchenkov fled to the United States in late 2015, saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted him dead for his role in exposing the doping conspiracy.

Russia doping whistleblower believes the World Cup in his homeland will be doping-free