KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: For the first time the issue of Vitaly Mutko’s ongoing credibility as Russia Sports Minister has been raised – albeit by Mutko himself.
Mutko is among a small clique of ministers and advisers who have remained trusted by President Vladimir Putin whom he followed from St Petersburg to power in Moscow.
He has survived so far the fall-out from the multiple doping scandals which threaten Russian athletes’ appearance at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August even though, as the state’s top sports official, it is hard to believe he was in ignorance of the practices.
Alternatively, if he did not know what was happening on his watch then – in any western country – his continuance in office would be untenable.
Mutko, apart from his sports ministry status is also head of the Russian football federation, is president of the local organising committee for the 2018 World Cup and is an influential member of the FIFA executive committee.
He raised the issue of his own future in a news conference after 18 positive tests in the meldonium controversy were followed by revelations of dozens more cases of dope-cheating in wrestling.
Russian wrestlers could also be barred from the Olympics after publication of the results of an internal investigation by the Russian Wrestling Federation.
Putin said on Tuesday that Mutko, would remain in his position despite the escalating scandal. Mutko later said, however, that he was prepared to end his eight years in the job.
According to R-Sport, he said: “The country has a leadership who take these decisions. When I see that the matter concerns me, I will leave my post.”
R-Sport has claimed that more than 40 Russian competitors in at least 10 different sports have tested positive for meldonium in the first two months of 2016. Meldonium hit the headlines after last month’s admission of a dope-test failure by tennis star Maria Sharapova.