News broke on Tuesday that Russia were set to be banned from next year's Winter Olympics. The International Olympic Committee, having completed a prolonged investigation into Russia's systematic doping during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, made the decision to ban their athletes from next February's games.
The IOC also barred Vladimir Putin's deputy, Vitaly Mutko, from all Olympic activity for life. Mutko was the former Sports minister and is now currently the 2018 Russia World Cup chief. The news of his lifetime ban has prompted questions about his involvement in next year's soccer showcase.
During today's press conference, the IOC insisted it was up to the governing body, in this case FIFA, to get its own house in order.
IOC President Thomas Bach won't comment on doping in Russian football and IOC-appointed investigator Samuel Schmid shifting responsibility onto FIFA to investigate
— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) December 5, 2017
On the day of the World Cup draw, Mutko used his hour-long speech to fiercely defend Russian sport and deny the claims of widespread doping.
Already FIFA medical chief Michel D’Hooghe has confirmed Russia will not be having anything to do with doping control during the World Cup:
The anti-doping control will be done by medical officers of FIFA not Russia, nothing will be in the hands of the Russian organisers. With the rumours around Russia it’s one reason more to say we give nothing of the doping control to Russian doctors, to the Russian authorities, to the local organising committee.
The state-sponsored doping and cover-up are well known at this stage while earlier this year the Mail on Sunday reported that Russian footballers were also the subject of investigation.
A Fifa spokesman told the Mail On Sunday that
Fifa is still investigating the allegations made against (Russian) football players.
It is unclear how that investigation went. It came about after the 2016 McLaren report stated that football was, in fact, one of the sports involved in Russia’s large doping system.
When speaking to the Independent.uk, Joseph de Pencier, the chief executive of iNADO, an umbrella group of anti-doping agencies, touted the idea of Russia being expelled from their own tournament:
Any multi-national sporting competition can carry on without a particular country being there, why couldn’t the World Cup in Russia? I acknowledge as a practical matter it’s hard to imagine that scenario and also the consequences that might cause, but why not?
Even after the IOC's announcement, FIFA said it had
no impact on the preparations for the 2018 World Cup as we continue to work to deliver the best possible event.
Today's move only further pressurises FIFA into being seen to tackle the doping allegations surrounding Russia. If anyone is to fix potential violators within the sport, it should be the sports organisation.
The ball is now in FIFA's court.