Russia’s role as the hosting nation for the 2018 FIFA World Cup has again called into light the conversation around doping in sport.
Russia has been the subject of various doping scandals in recent times. In particular, the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games unveiled unimaginable corruption which was documented in the 2016 report by Professor Richard McLaren commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), coined the “McLaren Report”.
In his report, McLaren found that more than 1,000 Russian athletes in 30 sports had been part of a State-sponsored doping programme, including footballers.
In the context of the World Cup, Chief Executive of United States Anti-Doping Agency (“USADA”), Travis Tygart, warned that it “would be naïve not to think that [Russia] could violate anti-doping rules again during the World Cup.” Sport and anti-doping lawyer, Catherine Ordway further stated that “all bets are off on how sports integrity will be protected.”
Between January and September 2017 a mere 56 Footballers from Russia underwent drug testing conducted by Russian Anti-Doping Agency (“RUSADA”) compared to 503 Russian Athletics athletes. These figures do not give much faith as to the new frontier of ‘clean sport’ established within Russia.
Adding to this unrest is WADA’s recent investigation into possible anti-doping rule violations by Russian footballers selected in the 2018 World Cup squad after finding 'insufficient evidence' to assert that players had broken rules.
It is estimated that the Russian Government have spent €9.16 billion on hosting the FIFA World Cup. A portion of these funds are directed to WADA whose funding is sourced half by the International Olympic Committee and the remaining half by Governments of Olympic nations.
It is this funding structure that renders WADA, in the opinion of Travis Tygart, “doomed to fail … unless it has pretty significant changes that makes it free from the conflict of interest… and those who have an interest not to promote clean sport.” Catherine Ordway recognises, “where there is gambling in sport, there are criminals attempting to influence the result, or pervert the progress of the competition for financial gain.”
This was evidenced in the McLaren Report which uncovered the creation of ‘false positives’ indicating that that ‘the [Russian Government] told Grigory Rodchenkov (former director of RUSADA’s national anti-doping laboratory) to create a false positive for a Ukrainian athlete’ to serve the interest of Russia.
Tygart stresses that “athletes have expressed their concern for the security around doping …and possibly getting a false positive that has been intentionally created to take them down,” and further that the conflict of interest with the Russian Government and WADA fosters “an environment that is really scary for athletes” and strays a long way from Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority’s values of clean, fair sport.