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FIFA awaits new evidence next week on Russian doping cases

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FIFA is expecting to receive new evidence next week from a Moscow laboratory database about doping cases in Russian soccer.

[ MORE: By the numbers, a look at Saturday’s MLS Cup final ]

Players from Russia’s squad at the 2014 World Cup are among 34 potential soccer cases arising from an investigation by Richard McLaren, who detailed a doping conspiracy across Russian sports.

The World Anti-Doping Agency has called a meeting for Thursday “to inform several international federations about the new intelligence,” FIFA said Friday in a statement.

[ MORE: Don Garber discusses #SaveTheCrew and more on Friday ]

WADA announced last month it had the Moscow database which, FIFA said, includes “all testing data between January 2012 and August 2015.”

That could reveal details from thousands of samples destroyed at the lab in December 2014, after the scale of Russian doping was reported in a German TV documentary.

In a sworn statement to an International Olympic Committee investigation, former Moscow and Sochi Olympic lab director Grigory Rodchenkov said he oversaw the destruction of about 8,000 doping controls on Dec. 13-14 “that were dirty samples in order to evade WADA.”

However, the anti-doping watchdog did retrieve about 3,000 samples from Moscow, and 154 were from soccer players, FIFA said Friday.

Re-testing of those samples for banned substances in the WADA-accredited lab in Lausanne, Switzerland, revealed no positive tests.

“However, investigations remain open as new evidence could still emerge,” FIFA said.

Based on forensic evidence, including scratch marks which could prove that sample bottles were forced open and steroid-tainted urine swapped out, the IOC has so far disqualified 25 Russian athletes from the 2014 Sochi Games. They were also banned from the Olympics for life.

FIFA said a mid-January start date has been set by WADA to begin forensic analysis in Lausanne of Russian samples from other sports.

FIFA also detailed Friday how it hopes to contact Rodchenkov via a WADA-appointed lawyer to gather more evidence for its own investigations. The scientist is a protected witness in the United States after fleeing Russia in 2015.

“FIFA will continue to work in close collaboration with WADA and explore every possible avenue,” soccer’s governing body said. “Should there be enough evidence to demonstrate an anti-doping rule violation by any athlete, FIFA will impose the appropriate sanction.”

Though not an athlete, the chairman of Russia’s World Cup organizing committee, Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, is deeply implicated in the Sochi doping conspiracy and cover-up.

The IOC banned Mukto from the Olympics for life on Tuesday, though FIFA said this would have no impact on the 2018 World Cup plans.

It is unclear if Mutko is still under investigation by the FIFA ethics committee using McLaren’s evidence – a specific request of WADA when the Sochi doping program was detailed in July 2016.

Peru’s World Cup foes lobby to overturn Guerrero’s ban

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Following last week’s decision handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Peru captain and talisman Paolo Guerrero has been banned from the 2018 World Cup — at the age of 34, almost certainly his last opportunity to star on the world’s biggest stage.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

However, in the days since that decision, a number of Guerrero’s fellow professionals and World Cup stars — France and Denmark captains Hugo Lloris and Simon Kjaer, and Australia’s Mile Jedinak — have written to FIFA, on behalf of FIFPro, the world player union, in hopes of rendering Guerrero eligible to pay at next month’s tournament in Russia.

“We respectfully ask the Fifa Council to show compassion,” the trio wrote. “In our view it would be plainly wrong to exclude him from what should be a pinnacle of his career.”

[ MORE: Ronaldo hints at Real Madrid exit | Bale does the same ]

That Lloris, Kjaer and Jedinak are the players lobbying in favor of Guerrero is particularly notable given the fact that Peru will face France, Denmark and Australia in Group C.

Guerrero tested positive for cocaine late last year, after a tea he drank was tainted and triggered a fail drug test.

SKC, Crew SC play to 0-0 draw; VAR steals the show (again)

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — The game in 100 words (or less): Nothing ruins a good game of soccer more than controversies involving the referee — and now that VAR is active within MLS, yet another failure of the video-review system to correct the most “clear and obvious” of wrong decisions. There is no longer any rhyme or reason in deciding whether or not to utilize what could be a very helpful tool. Check the third video further down this page to comprehend the absurdity of VAR in Sporting Kansas City’s 0-0 draw with Columbus Crew SC on Sunday. As for the actual soccer which was played, Tim Melia made one save to deny Gyasi Zardes with a point-blank header early in the first half, and a second to deny Zardes rom the penalty spot just before halftime. Despite being a back-and-forth affair between the league’s second- and third-place teams with a chance to take the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race, there were just six shots on target in total and genuine scoring chances were few and far between.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

Three moments that mattered

43′ — Zardes wins a PK, but Melia makes the save — Melia was responsible for giving away the penalty kick, and he more than made up for it by denying Zardes moments later.

45+6′ — Higuain puts studs into Espinoza, sees red — Originally not called a foul, changed to a red card following video review. On the softer side of red cards (just an opinion).

59′ — Martinez takes a swing at Sinovic, but no video review — At this point, it’s just time to disband the entire VAR experiment. It’s turned MLS into a clown show and an embarrassment. Signed, someone who was initially in favor of VAR, assuming MLS would utilize it properly.

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Man of the match: Tim Melia

Goalscorers: None

Rayo Vallecano win promotion back to La Liga

Photo credit: Rayo Vallecano / @RayoVallecano
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MADRID (AP) Rayo Vallecano earned promotion to Spain’s top division after beating Lugo 1-0 in a second-tier league game on Sunday.

Alex Moreno’s goal for the hosts in the 40th minute sealed Rayo’s return to La Liga after two seasons away.

Huesca had already secured promotion last weekend with a 2-0 victory at Lugo.

The third team to move up will be the winner of a two-round playoff between the four teams that finish the season from third to sixth.

Malaga, Las Palmas and Deportivo La Coruna were all relegated from the top flight this season.

FOLLOW LIVE: West leaders SKC host East’s 2nd-best Crew SC

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City host Columbus Crew SC, the Eastern Conference’s second-place side, at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday with both sides capable of overtaking Atlanta United for top spot in the Supporters’ Shield race.

[ FOLLOW: SKC vs. Crew SC in top-of-the-table clash ]

Sporting KC, who are unbeaten in three straight and have lost just once since opening day (11 games), lead expansion side Los Angeles FC in the West. Meanwhile, Crew SC enter Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash unbeaten in their last six games (four wins) and trail the league leaders from Atlanta by a single point.

Hit the link above to follow along throughout the afternoon, and check back with PST for coverage after the final whistle.