Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty

The Mail on Sunday today reported that FIFA is investigating the Russian 2014 World Cup soccer team for doping—literally every member of Russia’s 2014 World Cup team:

Our investigation has established that the Rio 23 and a further 11 current professional footballers are on a list of more than 1,000 ‘people of interest’, drawn up by doping investigators charged with getting to the bottom of global sport’s biggest scandal of the past decade.

It is the first time that the cloud of suspicion covering the rest of Russian sport has expanded its dark shadow over football, too, and the revelation poses further questions about Russia’s suitability to stage the tournament.

Further, it is also understood that this is the first time that an entire football team has been investigated – let alone a national team.

(This will remind you, of course, of Russia’s entire 2016 Paralympics team being banned for doping.)

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The team reportedly came to the attention of investigators after “irregularities” were identified in urine samples collected from the players by anti-doping officials. Officials reportedly have urine samples from some 100 soccer players, and the technology to differentiate between a legitimately clean sample and one that’s been doctored.

If you care less about players using performance enhancing drugs of dubious efficacy—Russia bombed out of the 2014 World Cup in the Group stage after drawing with Algeria and South Korea, and losing to Belgium—and more about vast, government-sanctioned or -run conspiracies to rig goddamn sporting contests, the juiciest stuff in this report has to do with “explosive” emails gathered by the Mail that reportedly explicitly discuss the manipulation of drug-testing samples, and a “Government-ordered cover-up.”

One email details the procedures needed to dilute a urine sample to mask high steroid levels. In another, the former lab boss Grigory Rodchenkov – who headed the doping programme and is now a whistle-blower living in the USA – fumes: ‘They’ve completely lost their last bits of conscience.’

[...]

The correspondence proves widespread doping across sports, which became so blatant that it concerned some officials who were part of the doping programme.

One email sent on Christmas Day 2013 – a few weeks before the Sochi Winter Olympics – from a colleague to the doping lab boss Rodchenkov talked about the drug-laden sample of a biathlon competitor containing three banned substances. ‘Samples like this should not make it to the laboratory,’ he wrote.

Check out the whole report here. The 21st FIFA World Cup will be hosted by Russia in 2018.