Russian minister to lose World Cup role

LONDON • Mr Vitaly Mutko, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister and 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 Russia's state-supported doping programme.

Several Russian news outlets, citing unnamed sources, reported on Thursday that he 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.

The Russian Football Union is scheduled to meet on 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 (IOC) also banned him 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 Gregory Rodchenkov.

Mr Mutko, a Fifa executive since 2009, had long been Russia's minister of sports, tourism and youth policy. Russian President Vladimir Putin elevated him to deputy premier in October last year.

His departure from his leadership role for the World Cup would reduce some of the pressure on football's governing body Fifa.

Its officials have been widely criticised for his 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.

Mr 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," he said recently.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2017, with the headline 'Russian minister to lose World Cup role'. Print Edition | Subscribe