The United States Anti-Doping Agency did not pull its punches.

"No international sporting events should be held in Russia until its anti-doping programme is fully code- compliant and all the individuals who participated in the corruption are held accountable," said chief executive Travis Tygart.

In other words: over to you, FIFA. There are various tournaments scheduled to be hosted in Russia, short-term, but Tygart probably didn't have the 2019 Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, in mind.

In 2018, all roads will lead to Russia and the next World Cup. That is the prize Vladimir Putin should lose.


That would be the punishment that fits his crime against sport. His name may have been missing from the second McLaren report, but this is his war, the work of his ministers and government officials, and he should be made to pay with a quite spectacular political and economic loss.

Sport is all part of Putin's hybrid war. He uses the medal table and the prestige of host status the same way he deploys everything from hooliganism to phone hacking and massing military forces near the borders of neighbouring countries: it is his way of flexing his muscles at the west.

As Professor McLaren revealed, Russia put in place a systemic doping programme that has now, undeniably, corrupted two editions of the Olympic Games. Unprecedented was the term McLaren used to describe a state-sponsored scheme that took in more than 1,000 athletes across 30 sports, including football.

Should FIFA president Gianni Infantino want the proof that his sport, specifically, was corrupted, it is there in the paper trail. The specimen numbers, the drug abuses, the panicked tone as officials try to keep track of drug use on such an enormous scale.

"It was a cover-up that evolved from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalised and disciplined, medal-winning conspiracy," explained McLaren.

There are specific references to football. "Dear Alex, it is urgent for youth team, they have a match..."

That is Grigory Rodchenkov, director of the Moscow Anti-Doping Centre, discussing by email a set of samples taken at the Novogorsk training centre.

"Just chaos, but officially we cannot give it... and we cannot withdraw from the game," he goes on to explain.


It is all there, the full span of Russian corruption: from blind judokas to clay pigeon shooters and female hockey players who showed up as male, according to their urine samples.

Thousands of pages, of frantic email exchanges, the evidence so mountainous it can no longer be considered the work of rogue athletes or even one corrupt department.

An operation this big can only have come from the top - which is why the punishment must hurt at the top, too. Putin cannot be allowed to strut his way through the 2018 World Cup.

Richard McLaren who produced the WADA report into Russia. Photo / Getty
Richard McLaren who produced the WADA report into Russia. Photo / Getty

It is too late to save Sochi and the 2014 Winter Olympics. That moment has passed and we can only console ourselves that it was a Russian games that Russia ruined: the Sochi name forever synonymous with cheating and a nefarious mission.

Sochi is gone; but it is not too late to rescue the World Cup. The IAAF stripped a series of events from Russia when it imposed its ban earlier this year - Infantino could restore much of FIFA's credibility in a stroke if he did the same.

The longer sports executives continue to indulge this rogue state, the more they send a message that money is prized beyond integrity. All that is keeping the World Cup in Russia is commerce.

Logistically, the tournament could be moved in 18 months; other countries have stadiums, facilities, transport networks that could take on such a challenge.

What they do not have is firm evidence of a state-sponsored doping programme that has, in McLaren's words, 'hijacked' events and 'deceived' sports fans for years - as well as denying hundreds of athletes their destiny.

Doping is not a victimless crime. Years of hard work go unrewarded; the highlight of a lifetime can be lost for ever.

Yet Russian athletes are victims, too. They have been swallowed up by a machine, a state-endorsed mechanism in which cheating was advanced as the norm, indeed the only way forward.

This has to stop and, to do that, it has to be shown that these methods do not work. Those at the top have to suffer, the way the athletes suffered. And nothing would hurt them more than losing the World Cup, the biggest international showcase of the Putin years.

Has Russia learned from the brutal exposure of the McLaren reports? It would seem not yet. The nation's ministers and sports leaders continue to be in denial about the seriousness of the accusations.

Dmitry Svishchev, head of Russia's Curling Federation and also chief of the commission of sports at the Russian parliament, said: "This is what we expected. There's nothing new, only empty allegations against all of us. If you are Russian, you'll get accused of every single sin."

But that's a lie. While Lord Coe's IAAF took an admirably firm stance against Russian involvement in Rio de Janeiro, many sports did not. Russia were still fourth in the medal table - although their total will slowly drop as more test results come in.

Just 24 hours before the McLaren report was published, silver medallist flyweight boxer Misha Aloyan was stripped of his prize having tested positive for the stimulant tuaminoheptane. In that moment, the past connected with the present.

It is not enough to argue that Russian cheating was historic, or that - as its Sports Ministry claimed on Friday - there is now zero tolerance of drug use. McLaren made clear that he only looked at two Olympics - London 2012 and Sochi 2014 - and that many more could have been corrupted the same way.

Aloyan, for instance, was a bronze medallist in London and won gold at the World Amateur Championships in 2011 and 2013, at the European Amateur Championships in 2010 and the World Cup in 2008. Did he do all of that clean? McLaren describes what we now know as the tip of the iceberg.

And, yes, Russia are not the only country that has cheats. Disqualified with Aloyan, for instance, was a Romanian weightlifter, Gabriel Sincraian, who won bronze in Rio. The Fancy Bears hack has cast doubts over the legitimacy of therapeutic use exemptions, with so many athletes utilising them.

Yet the reaction to this in Britain, for instance, is in marked contrast to the reaction to the McLaren report in Russia. Questions are being asked in parliament about Sir Bradley Wiggins, who turned up on TUE lists for pollen allergies.

Meanwhile, Tour de France champion Chris Froome is not even included in a 16-strong list for Sports Personality of the Year, because Team Sky are considered to have explaining to do.

Compare that scrutiny to the attitude in Russia where hard evidence of cheating - no prissy therapeutic exemptions in this scandal - are dismissed as little more than a western conspiracy.

"I can't grasp what WADA wants to achieve," added Svishchev. "Either they want Russia to be excluded from the world sports family, or they want to really put things right everywhere, Russia included.

"To do that, they should start with themselves. We won't make peace with this defamation. We admit we have our issues, but there is no need to demonise us."

So WADA are the crooks, not the country that spiked samples with coffee granules and salt - so much salt, in some cases, that it would be impossible for a human to live. WADA are the cheats, not the country that provided 27 medal winners over two Olympics, whose samples had either been tampered with or were implicated in tampering.

WADA are wrong, not the country whose test lab sent emails to the Ministry of Sport, asking what they should do with positive samples.

We cannot continue like this. We cannot continue making discoveries, knowing what we know, with this information having no consequence. The lickspittle Olympic chief Thomas Bach says he has no regrets over letting Russia compete in Rio, when this report as good as proves it was an utter dereliction of his duty, and he should resign.

Infantino cannot now be allowed to tread the same compromised, craven path. A World Cup in Russia will have no credibility or integrity. It will endorse cheating and pander to the very men who pull those strings.

To send it there was a bad decision from the start and will be a worse decision now. Yet, equally, FIFA have the chance to do the world of sport a great service and take down an institution that has become a byword for corruption.

Yes, we may appreciate the irony of that position; but, inescapably, it is an opportunity, too.

Key Findings of the Second McLaren Report

"The Russian Olympic team corrupted the London Games 2012 on an unprecedented scale. The desire to win medals superseded their collective moral and ethical compass and Olympic values of fair play."

An "institutionalised conspiracy" existed between Russian athletes who worked with Ministry of Sport officials and the Federal Security Service in a 'systematic and centralised cover-up and manipulation' of doping controls.

Between 2011 and 2015, it involved more than 1,000 Russian athletes - including "well-known and elite level" competitors - in 30 summer, winter and Paralympic sports, including football.

London 2012 Olympics

Before London 2012, some Russian athletes were "supplemented by a steady program of performance enhancing drugs".

Officials ensured they were only tested when the drugs were out of their system and used bribes to eradicate positive tests.

McLaren found evidence that 78 Russian athletes at London 2012, including 15 medallists, had positive tests hidden by the Moscow laboratory.

Dirty samples were swapped with clean urine and then altered by adding salt, sediment, water or coffee granules so they looked like the positive urine samples.

Moscow World Athletics Championships, 2013

The Russian Federal Security Service developed an instrument - 'no bigger than a pen and similar to what a dentist would use to examine teeth' - to remove caps from sample bottles without detection.

Dirty urine would then be swapped for clean urine, which athletes would collect in baby bottles or Coke bottles. If an athlete could not provide a clean sample, a coach or family member would do it.

Sochi Winter Olympics, 2014

What happened at Sochi has been described as "the greatest scandal in sporting history".

"A comprehensive strategy was designed to ensure that Russia, as the host country, was able to win as many medals as possible by allowing its athletes to dope up to and in some cases, through the Games."

Officials knew which athletes would be tested on a particular day. Clean urine was defrosted and swapped with dirty samples, with the bottles passed through a mouse hole at the Sochi lab.

Two gold medallists had samples with salt readings that were physiologically impossible. Two female hockey players submitted samples containing male DNA.