KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: The high-profile role of Vitaly Mutko has been exposed to further speculation after he was banned from life from attending the Olympic Games because of his “administrative” responsibility in the Russian doping scandal.
Mutko is a long-term acolyte of Russian state President Vladimir Putin and has staunchly defended Russia against the growing mountain of evidence piled up in his face about state manipulation of anti-doping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
He is currently a Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and head of the local organising committee of next year’s World Cup in Russia as well as being president of the Russian Football Union.
Formerly he was also a member of world federation FIFA’s governing council until he was barred from standing last May for re-election because of a conflict of interest with his political role.
Putin, down the years, has always stood by Mutko and is expected to continue to do so. Mutko has proved himself a lively lightning conductor amid any Russian sports controversies and has now been banned for life from attending any and all Olympic Games.
All that appears to have prompted FIFA to take the ostrich option over Russian doping allegations in general and Mutko in particular.
A FIFA statement after the IOC announcement of a nuanced Russian suspension from the PyeongChang Winter Games next February said: “FIFA has taken note of the decision made by the IOC regarding the participation of Russian athletes at the upcoming Winter Olympics.
“This decision has no impact on the preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup as we continue to work to deliver the best possible event.
“When it comes to potential disciplinary or ethical matters concerning specific individuals, it will be up to the respective FIFA bodies to evaluate them. Any information on specific disciplinary or ethical matters will be communicated accordingly upon the respective committee’s indications.”
Samuel Schmid, the former President of Switzerland who conducted an investigation for the IOC, had responded cautiously to a press conference question about Mutko’s level of responsibility.
Schmid said: “There is an administrative responsibility that is engaged and that is how the report has to be understood.”
Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, declined to speculate on how he might respond were he to be invited to the World Cup Final next July while Mutko remained in place with the organising committee.
A further issue concerning the World Cup were suspicions recorded in a report for the World Anti-Doping Agency about doping in football in Russia. This continues under review by FIFA.
The world federation’s stance on Mutko echoes its attitude to Marco Polo del Nero who remains in place as president of the Brazilian CBF despite having been indicted in the FIFAGate scandal by the United States justice department two years ago.
The FIFA statement continued:
When it comes to anti-doping measures, FIFA takes its responsibility very seriously and is investigating the allegations made in the “McLaren report”. In this process, FIFA is working in close collaboration with WADA and has been in contact with Prof. McLaren.
Should there be enough evidence to demonstrate the violation of any anti-doping rules by any athlete, FIFA would impose the appropriate sanction. On the other hand, it should be stressed that sanctions cannot be imposed based on mere suspicion or limited facts.
The procedure for the handling of evidence contained in the report by the respective sports federations was set by WADA in February 2017 and further guidance was provided very recently, acknowledging that there may not be sufficient evidence to sanction individual athletes.
Although it is in FIFA’s interest that such procedures are finalised as early as possible, thorough investigations take time, as demonstrated by the IOC investigation, which only started to produce results recently.
At the same time, FIFA continues to take every measure at its competitions to ensure football remains free from doping. For the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 played in Russia, every participating player was tested in unannounced controls and further systematic tests were performed at every match. All results were negative.
A similar protocol will be in place for next year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, with the analysis of all doping samples to be carried out at WADA laboratories outside Russia.