Fifa urged to assure German doping expert can go to Russia World Cup

Berlin: German football supremo Reinhard Grindel and politicians on Saturday urged ruling body Fifa and its President Gianni Infantino to make sure that investigative journalist Hajo Seppelt is given a visa to attend the upcoming World Cup in Russia.
It was revealed on Friday that German Seppelt, whose reporting helped uncover wide-ranging doping practices in Russia, was denied a visa by Russian authorities as persona non grata for the June 14-July 15 tournament.
“Fifa has declared how important it rates freedom of press. I have full faith that Fifa will make use of its influence so that Mr Seppelt can report from Russia without restrictions,” German Football Federation (DFB) President Grindel said in a statement.
Dagmar Freitag, who chairs Germany’s parliamentary sports committee and is also a member of the foreign affairs committee, said: “I am curious how Mr Infantino will react now. After all, Fifa is claiming that it wants to enable journalists to travel to the World Cup.”
Fifa said late on Friday it has accredited Seppelt for the tournament and that it was “getting more information from the Russian authorities regarding his visa process through the Local Organising Committee.
“Generally speaking, the freedom of the press is of paramount importance to Fifa and we always aim to provide media representatives with the best possible conditions for coverage of all Fifa events,” Fifa said.
Freitag, in a Facebook post, called Russia’s visa denial “not only completely unjust but downright scandalous.”
The ARD television network said on Friday that award-winning Seppelt, who has reported on doping since 2009, was denied the visa.
He helped uncovered wide-ranging doping in Russian athletics through whistleblowers which led to the ongoing suspension of Russia’s athletics federation. Further reports by him and other media as well as probes by the World Anti-Doping Agency and International Olympic Committee led to the suspension of Russia for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang. — DPA