A player in Russia’s World Cup squad is a drugs cheat, says doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov.
The former head of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory said one of the squad was on a list of 34 footballers that he helped cover up.
“I saw the names of those at the World Cup and I recognised one,” he said.
Last week Fifa said it had ended a doping investigation into Russian footballers because of “insufficient evidence”.
Fifa investigated the 34 names that were handed to it following the McLaren reports, which found 1,000 Russian athletes across 30 sports benefited from state-sponsored doping between 2012 and 2015.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) said it agreed with Fifa’s decision to close the cases.
Rodchenkov, who quit the laboratory and fled to the United States in 2016 when he turned whistleblower over Russia’s doping programme, told a Foundation for Sports Integrity launch event in London on Thursday that the 34 names were from “different levels” of Russian football.
The 59-year-old, who wore a mask as he spoke via a video link from the US where he is under a witness protection programme, also said that former Russian Football Union (RFU) president Vitaly Mutko told him “not to touch football players”.
Mutko – Russia’s deputy prime minister – stepped down from his role at the RFU in 2017 and was banned from the Olympics for life for his alleged role in Russia’s “state-directed” doping programme.
Rodchenkov added: “Vitaly Mutko said to me that we don’t need any positive cases or even noise in football, especially in the national level team.”
‘The World Cup in Russia will be clean’
Despite his claims, Rodchenkov said he believed that the World Cup in Russia, which starts on 14 June, would be free of doping during the tournament.
“There will be only foreign doping control experts from Russia. It should be clean,” he said.
“During competition all people are clean, the most complicated and wrong things are done before major events.
“High level footballers have agents and experts around them and they try to keep them clean because doping will ruin their careers.
“There are millions of football lovers. Those 34 names were over the years across different teams. It’s very important that they are still being investigated because we had initial tests but then the procedure was stopped and reported negative.”