World soccer's governing body is stepping up its investigation into alleged doping among Russian soccer players by seeking information from the whistle-blower who first exposed a system of widespread doping and cover-ups in Russia.
The Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) said on January 15 that it was requesting information from Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director turned whistle-blower whose allegations, first aired in 2015, led to Russia being banned from the Olympics and other sporting events.
FIFA's inquiry comes as Russia is making extensive preparations to host the 2018 World Cup in Russian cities this summer. FIFA has previously said it does not expect the Russian doping scandal to affect the World Cup.
The federation has not previously sought information directly from Rodchenkov, despite his having provided evidence to support 34 cases of alleged doping in Russian soccer, including by players from Russia's World Cup squad in 2014, that were revealed in a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigative report.
FIFA said in a statement on January 15 that the author of the WADA report, Richard McLaren, provided it with the information he received from Rodchenkov, and it was now seeking additional, related information directly from Rodchenkov, who since turning whistle-blower has said he fears for his life and lives in hiding in the United States.
While he was head of the Moscow lab, which conducted thousands of urine tests on Russian athletes to determine whether they were doping, Rodchenkov said he oversaw the destruction of about 8,000 positive doping samples.
WADA said it recently obtained a database from the doping lab and managed to retrieve 3,000 samples, including 154 from soccer players.
Those samples have not as yet been subject to forensic analysis to detect signs of manipulation, such as scratch marks, which could prove that bottles were forced open and tainted urine samples replaced with clean ones.
FIFA said it was now requesting a "forensic analysis" of "selected" doping samples obtained from the Moscow lab database.
Evidence from the Moscow lab database was used by Olympic authorities in their investigation of Russia and decision to ban it from next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea, as well as to ban a number of individual Russian athletes from the Olympics for life.
Analysts said FIFA could use similar evidence to pursue actions against Russia's soccer team and individual players.
Rodchenkov's lawyer, Jim Walden, recently told AP that the Laboratory Information Management System data for the Russia lab had "thousands and thousands and thousands of files in a secret portion of the server that show the disappearing positives which also benefited Russian soccer players."
With reporting by AP, Sky Sports, and Inside World Football