Russia’s last 16 tie against Spain on Sunday may be an historic moment for the host nation - it is the furthest they have ever reached in the tournament - but there remains a cloud over the team.

While on the pitch Russia were enjoying relatively comfortable progress to the knock-out stages, off the field, reports were emerging of serious allegations of doping. Last weekend, it was reported that a Russian player failed a drugs test in 2015 yet Russia’s Sports Ministry covered-up the positive test up. And the player, Ruslan Kambolov, who failed the drugs test, was included in Russia’s current World Cup squad, although he withdrew through injury prior to the tournament starting.

It was then alleged that FIFA had documentary proof of cover-ups such as this in Russia yet ignored the issue, doing nothing to hold Russia’s FA or Sports Ministry to account, with as many as 34 individual cases being presented by investigators to FIFA with supporting evidence which, they thought, would potentially be enough to start disciplinary proceedings

FIFA claimed, in response, that they had been looking at the issue for over a year but despite the attention from the governing body, not a shred of action was taken.

There is, as yet anyway, no concrete evidence that any Russian players at this year’s World Cup are doping but some of the stats generated during their first two games have prompted questions. Russian players ran further in their first two games than any other nation - 143 miles - and while this is by no means any evidence of doping, it adds to the list of suspicions over Russian athletes which have been ongoing for years, including their Olympic athletes being systematically doped.

Yet FIFA seems astonishingly reluctant to make any real push to investigate the Russian football authorities, despite mounting evidence that something may not be quite right. This should, however, perhaps not be especially surprising.

Football in general has never taken a particularly hard line towards doping and in fact,the sport appears remarkably naïve about the threat that doping poses.

There have been countless denials over the years from many within football that doping does not taint their sport and that in fact, doping would be of no help in football with it being such a “skill-based” sport. What good would doping do, they ask? Drugs cannot improve skill so what would be the point of footballers taking drugs?

This is utter rubbish. If practically every other sport in the world has been touched to some extent or another by athletes who dope, it would be utter folly to expect football to be any different. Yes, footballers must be skilful but to be so deluded as to think that being physically better would not be of great benefit to a footballer is nothing short of ridiculous.

And it is hard to ignore the fact that FIFA has much at stake in retaining football’s reputation that its sport is clean. To date, few footballers have ever been penalised for doping and it is easy to see why the governing body would been keen for this record to continue. As summarised by Dick Pound, the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA): “They (FIFA) have the matter of billions of dollars at stake in having a hassle-free World Cup.”

This is undeniably true but we have seen before what happens when governing bodies try to avoid the issue rather than confront it. Cycling initially covered-up the widespread doping and caused untold damage to the sport, damage that has yet to be fully repaired.

But the way to keep a sport clean, and FIFA must appreciate this, is not to hide anything. Transparency may, in the short-term, cause destruction but in the long-term, is it vital.

Football is not immune to doping. It is impossible to know if there are any drugs cheats at this World Cup but to suggest there are no dopers within football is ridiculous, and almost certainly wrong.

Sooner or later, a huge doping case will blow up within football. To think that Russia was happy to enrol so many of its top Olympic athletes in a systematic doping programme yet leave football untouched seems unlikely.

However, this may be the case. But whatever the answer may end up being, it must be properly investigated.