Football: Fifa says no doping cases against Russian squad members

Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov speaks with players during training. PHOTO: REUTERS

ZURICH (REUTERS) - Host nation Russia's World Cup squad was declared free of doping by Fifa on Tuesday (May 22) after the global soccer body followed up on the McLaren report, which uncovered widespread cheating across more than 30 sports in the country.

However, global soccer's governing body said in a statement that investigations into several players unrelated to the World Cup were continuing.

A report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and compiled by Canadian sports lawyer Richard McLaren in 2016 found that more than 1,000 Russian competitors were involved in a conspiracy to conceal positive drug tests over a five-year period. Soccer was among the sports involved.

Russia, which will host the World Cup in June and July, has acknowledged some findings of the McLaren report but has repeatedly denied the existence of a state-sponsored doping programme.

Fifa said that, following the report, it launched its own investigation "prioritising high-level players against whom a suspicion had been raised, in particular those who might participate in the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia."

It concluded that "insufficient evidence was found to assert an anti-doping rule violation" in the cases of all 28 members of Russia's provisional squad from which the final 23 will be named. Wada had agreed with its findings, Fifa said.

"Fifa performed several unannounced targeted doping controls in the process of the investigations and the Russian squad has been one of the most tested teams prior to the Fifa World Cup," it added.

Fifa said it assessed all information contained in the report "with the support of scientific and legal experts" and contacted McLaren himself.

It said that samples taken by Fifa of all players mentioned in the McLaren reports and high-level players were re-analysed and all results were negative.

Fifa also said it sent questions to Russia's former anti-doping chief-turned-whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov and assessed his answers "with the support of scientific and legal experts."

Regarding Russian non-World Cup players, Fifa said it will "continue to work on these cases in cooperation with the Wada. Further updates will be provided in due course."

There was no immediate comment from the Russian Football Union (RFU).

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