Anti-doping body mulls Russia reinstatement as Olympics loom

Athletes pass the Olympic rings during the men’s 50K cross-country race at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. World Anti-Doping Agency investigations into doping haven’t encouraged Russian athletes to speak out about abuses, but instead, there is a public hunt for whistleblowers, as Tuesday Nov. 14, 2017, Russia seems to move closer to a ban from the upcoming Winter Olympics.(AP/Dmitry Lovetsky, FILE)
Updated 15 November 2017
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Anti-doping body mulls Russia reinstatement as Olympics loom

SEOUL: The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will decide whether to reinstate scandal-hit Russia on Thursday after explosive doping revelations put a question mark over its participation in next year’s Winter Olympics.
Less than three months before the Games in Pyeongchang, a green light from WADA would be a huge plus for Russia as it fights to avoid a possible ban from the event by the International Olympic Committee.
Russia was declared “non-compliant” by WADA after the McLaren report alleged state-sponsored doping from 2011 to 2015, culminating at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi — where the hosts topped the medals table.
Russia’s secret service and sports ministry were accused of orchestrating an elaborate plot that included using a “mousehole” to switch dirty samples at the doping laboratory in the Black Sea resort.
Last week, WADA said it had obtained an “enormous” internal database of Russian drug test results from 2012-2015, findings from which are expected to be reported to Thursday’s foundation board meeting in Seoul.
Ripples from the controversy have spread wide after President Vladimir Putin accused the United States of inventing drugs allegations to influence next year’s presidential election.
“In response to our alleged interference in their election, they want to create problems for the election of the president of Russia,” Putin said last week.
“Russia never had and, I hope, will never have a system of state doping of which we are being accused,” he said.
Sports minister Pavel Kolobkov has admitted he’s pessimistic about Russia’s readmission by WADA, which is demanding that it “publicly accept” the McLaren report’s findings.
“It is difficult as they have demanded the unconditional recognition of the McLaren report that we cannot accept as it contains too many discrepancies,” he told the R-sport agency.
Russia partially accepts the findings of the report, compiled by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, but Putin and others have strenuously denied the existence of a state-sponsored doping program.
Progress has been made, and WADA has already partially lifted its ban on the Russian anti-doping agency, giving it the right to collect samples. It also audited the body in September.
But WADA also wants access to urine samples stored in Russia’s Moscow anti-doping laboratory as one of the key demands of its “road map” to return to compliance.
However, even if WADA stops short of declaring Russia compliant in Seoul, it may not be fatal to the country’s chances of competing in Pyeongchang.
The IOC ignored WADA’s calls to ban Russia from last year’s Rio Olympics over the McLaren report, instead leaving the decision to individual sports bodies.
The Olympic body is expected to announce Russia’s fate at an executive board meeting in December in Lausanne, where it will hear the results of two investigations into Russian doping.


‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

Updated 20 June 2018
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‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

  • A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half gave Uruguay a 1-0 win
  • Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance

ROSTOV-ON-DON: Good, but not good enough.
That was what Juan Antonio Pizzi stated as he declared himself pleased with his team’s performance in the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday night.
But he lamented his side’s lack of firepower as they exited the World Cup after just two matches.
Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance in Rostov-on-Don after losing their opening game 5-0 to hosts Russia in Moscow last week.
The Argentine got his wish with a display that saw the Green Falcons fight throughout and edge possession against a Uruguay side ranked 14th in the world.
A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half after poor goalkeeping from Mohammed Al-Owais, however, was enough to hand the Green Falcons a 12th successive World Cup defeat.
The result means that even with a win against Egypt on Monday, the Green Falcons are no longer capable of progressing to the knock-out stages from Group A.
“We had a lot of ball possession and were able to impose our style of play and distribution,” said Pizzi. “We conceded a goal from a random play and didn’t have the weapons or tools to try to equalize. We kept the ball well and weren’t really troubled defensively, but lacked that ability to score.”
Indeed, for all their possession, Saudi Arabia have managed just three shots on target in 180 minutes of football. Against Russia, they failed to muster a single effort on target and the managed just three against Uruguay, two of which came in the final minutes when they knew they had to score or face elimination. None of the three shots came from a striker.
“This is our weakness. We have good ball possession, but no effectiveness. We lack the depth and skill required to win these games,” Pizzi added. “We have that deficiency and have looked for solutions, but we haven’t quite come up with one yet. But that is one of the reasons great forward are in high demand and are the elite players in world football.”
Pizzi had made four changes ahead of the match, dropping goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf in favor of Al-Owais and introducing Ali Al-Bulayhi at the heart of the defense alongside Osama Hawsawi. Further upfield, Hattan Bahberi came in for Yahya Al-Shehri and Fahad Al-Muwallad replaced Mohammed Al-Sahlawi. The changes, particularly the inclusion of Bahberi, seemed to give the side more impetus in midfield.
“The difference between the performance in the first game and this game is enormous,” Pizzi said. “The only way to compete at this level is to play at the level we did here. And even then it was not enough even to get a draw. Undoubtedly there were other factors aside from the pressure of playing in the opening game that made a difference, but it’s true that the difference was enormous.”
Many critics had predicted a deluge of goals from the likes of Suarez and Cavani, yet both were kept at bay. Save for a couple of half-chances early on, neither came close to scoring until the 23rd minute.
A corner from Carlos Sanchez sailed into the area and when Al-Owais came for it but failed to connect with his punch, Barcelona forward Suaréz was left with the simplest of tap-ins. He was so caught off-guard, he actually looked surprised as he reeled away in celebration.
“I believe you cannot be relaxed in any match,” Suarez said when asked by a Uruguayan journalist whether he had taken it easy against the Saudis.
“We wanted to win and to progress to the knock-out stage and this game simply showed how difficult it is. That’s the World Cup for you though and we are obviously delighted with how we have performed so far to progress.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez did not share his striker’s sentiments.
“Saudi Arabia wanted to excel and give a better account of themselves after losing to Russia,” he said.
“They did that very well and we have to respect them. But what surprised me the most is how we played. We underperformed.”