MOSCOW: Vitaly Mutko has said he is prepared to resign as Sports Minister if Russia should be banned from the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Mutko was reported by the TASS news agency as having made his comment on a Russian television channel while discussing the latest state of the doping controversy which has landed Russian track and field athletes with an international ban.

Russia’s weightlifters are also set to be suspended from competing in Rio as punishment by the international federation (IWF) for doping violations revealed after retesting by the International Olympic Committee of samples taken at the 2008 and 2012 Games.

Given the demonstrable failure of Russian sport’s anti-doping ‘system’ there have been calls for the country to be barred from Rio in its entirety because of the lack of trust that any of its competitors, in any sports, are clean.

Mutko, who is also president of the Russian football federation which has just endured a dire time at Euro 2016, said: “It would be a huge setback if the entire team were to be disqualified from the Olympics and would take the responsibility. I would be ready to resign.”

Continuing ban

Last week the governing council of the world athletics federation (IAAF) upheld a continuing ban on Russian athletes, while conceding that the only ones who might be permitted at Rio were those who could present a clean record based on testing abroad.

Mutko indicated that 67 Russian athletes would individually apply to compete in Rio. He said: “Tomorrow, 67 Russian athletes will submit individual applications to the IOC. They are entitled to do so if they can prove they have been clean with a minimum of three samples taken by the British Anti-Doping Agency.”

Russian athletes would also be submitting an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the international suspension.

Mutko also commented on the investigation being led by Canadian Professor Richard McLaren for the World Anti-Doping Agency into allegations from former Moscow laboratory head Gregor Rodchenkov.

The latter had claimed, in an interview with the New York Times, that he and Russian federal security service connived in switching dope samples at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Mutko said: “WADA set up a commission and McLaren has launched an investigation into the allegations . . . but no-one has asked us any questions.”

The Minister is also president of the Russian local organising committee for the 2018 World Cup and a member of the governing councils of both world football federation FIFA and European governing body UEFA.