Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, a long-time sports official for the country, may soon relinquish his role as leader of the organising committee for next year’s World Cup after drawing intense scrutiny for his role in the country’s state-supported doping programme.
Several Russian news outlets, citing unnamed sources, reported on Thursday (Dec 21) that Mutko would soon step down as the president of Russia’s football federation, a surprising capitulation by one of the country’s top officials as government leaders have responded defiantly to doping allegations.
Russia’s football federation is scheduled to meet next Tuesday.
In announcing this month that Russia’s Olympic team would be barred from the coming Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the International Olympic Committee also barred Mutko for life from the Olympics.
He had been Russia’s top sports official during the 2014 Sochi Games and was implicated by the doping whistle-blower Dr Gregory Rodchenkov.
Mutko, a Fifa executive since 2009, had long been Russia’s Minister of Sports, Tourism and Youth Policy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, elevated him as his second in command in October 2016.
Mutko’s departure from his leadership role for the World Cup would reduce some of the pressure on Fifa, the global governing body for football.
Its officials have been widely criticised for Mutko’s continued presence after the Olympic committee’s decision to bar him.
Fifa has said that the IOC’s punishments for Olympic doping would have “no impact” on its preparations for the tournament, which begins in June.
Mutko has vehemently denied any state-sponsored doping.
“I’m happy to go to any court, to any disciplinary committee, to anyone and I’ll be happy to talk about how there has never been and will never be any state programmes related to doping in this country,” Mutko said recently.