Russia’s hosting of the World Cup is becoming increasingly problematic for FIFA’s leaders after the International Olympic Committee withdrew support for sporting events being staged in the doping-tainted nation.
The IOC’s move followed this week’s second damning World Anti-Doping Agency report, which accused Russia of state-sponsored doping.
The scandal landed at FIFA’s door after Russian football was for the first time implicated in the alleged doping cover-up by a country that has been entrusted with football’s most prestigious event in 2018.
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, whose department is accused of orchestrating the deception, is also head of the country’s football federation and is a member of FIFA’s ruling council.
Football’s governing body is standing by the 2018 hosts – just as it has done throughout six years of scrutiny since the contentious vote to hand the World Cup to Russia for the first time.
“Preparations for the World Cup are in full swing,” Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, said Wednesday. “FIFA said yesterday that they are preparing for the World Cup to be held in Russia.”
And 2018 is not the only countdown. FIFA is less than 11 months from staging the Confederations Cup, an eight-team warm-up competition, in Russia.
Dick Pound, the former WADA president who authored the earlier report on doping in Russian track and field, said FIFA now has another “credibility issue” to confront following McLaren’s findings.