Moscow (AFP) – Russian deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko on Sunday shrugged off a report that the country’s entire 2014 World Cup squad was under FIFA investigation for doping.
British newspaper The Mail on Sunday wrote that the Russian players are being probed by FIFA as part of a broader scandal over allegations of state-backed doping in the country.
But Mutko — who also heads the country’s football authorities — blasted the report as “nonsense” and insisted that there has never been any problem with doping in the Russian game.
“There have never been and will never be any problems with doping in our football – our team are permanently being tested, they undergo doping tests after every match,” Mutko told TASS news agency.
“They have written some sort of nonsense. Don’t bother reading the English newspapers in the morning,” he said.
The Mail on Sunday reported that the 2018 World Cup hosts’ squad from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and a further 11 players are being looked into after they ended up on a list of over 1,000 “people of interest” compiled by world anti-doping authorities.
The article quoted a FIFA spokesman as saying that football’s governing body was “still investigating the allegations”.
There is as yet no clear proof that the players were guilty of doping despite the alleged suspicions, the newspaper added.
The latest claims threatens to cast a shadow as Russia hosts the Confederations Cup tournament a year ahead of the kick off of the World Cup in the country.
Four of the Russian players from the 2014 World Cup squad in Rio have been involved at the Confederations Cup.
Russia was earlier accused by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) of running a state-sponsored operation across sports to aid and protect drug cheats.
Most of Russia’s track-and-field team was banned from the Olympic games in Rio over the doping scandal and its entire Paralympics squad was excluded.
The allegations that football might have been involved could represent a major new twist in the doping saga and could drag in some of Russia’s highest-profile sports stars.