Talking Soccer: How the Russian doping scandal affects FIFA

Researches enter into the Doping Control Center at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. Russia could lose its chance to be reinstated before the end of the Winter Olympics because of a doping charge against curling bronze medalist Alexander Krushelnitsky. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

If you are following the Winter Olympics, you might have seen how Russian athletes are not representing Russia and their flag.

Why?

Russia as a country was banned from this year’s Olympics after it was revealed there was a state-sponsored doping program going back years.

The International Olympic Committee later allowed most Russian athletes to compete in neutral uniforms, regardless of their doping activities in the past.

However, the history books will show that Russia had no medals in PyeongChang, South Korea.

But why are we talking about the Olympics? this is Talking Soccer!

Well, Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, who was the director of the Russia’s anti-doping laboratory during Sochi 2014 and the reason why Russia is not in the Olympics, said to the Associated Press that soccer players in Russia were protected from being caught doping.  

“Russian footballers were immune from doping-control actions or sanctions,” Rodchenkov said in response to questions through his lawyer from his hiding place in the United States, as reported by the Associated Press.

Rodchenkov claims he was instructed by then-sports minister and president of the Russian Football Union Vitaly Mutko to avoid scandals.

Mutko is banned for life from the Olympics but he is still active in the organization of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

So, this is how we get to soccer and the World Cup.

What also happened the same year of the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014? The men’s World Cup in Brazil.

In July 2017, FIFA President Gianni Infantino was investigating the allegations of possible doping among the Russian soccer players in that World Cup.

But Rodchenkov doubts FIFA is doing the best it can to uncover these cases.

“If there was a big issue regarding Russian players who would be doped we would by now already know it,” Infantino said in response to the accusation.

In a question-answer format, FIFA claims it’s doing its best to tackle the investigation and is constantly exchanging information with the World Anti-Doping Agency and there might not be enough evidence for sanctions.

Doping is not new to sports and some people are still surprised when they hear of doping cases whether that be Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France, the baseball steroid era or the Olympics.

You could see why an athlete would choose to do that. But a government sponsoring it? It’s hard to see why.

Historically sports have been a way to show dominance and strength. During the 1936 Olympics, Adolf Hitler and Germany tried to showcase the country as white, powerful and dominant.

Jesse Owens ruined Hitler’s racist fantasy.

During the Soviet Union years, the country got behind the rise of sports and fitness. Their dominance in hockey, gymnastics and winter sports was a sign of pride and competed directly with the United States.

ESPN did a great ‘30 for 30’ on the Miracle On Ice from the perspective of the Russian hockey players. It showed how important sports were for the Russian leaders.

Russia is hosting the biggest sports tournament in the world this summer. According to FIFA, 3.2 billion watched the tournament and one billion watched the final between Argentina and Germany.

The eyes of the world are on Russia and it’s a chance to try and show their strength as a country.

Even if there aren’t sanctions given to the soccer players on the team, this is just another dark spot in this World Cup and the ongoing decline of FIFA’s credibility.


Daniela Marulanda is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at daniela.marulanda@uconn.edu.