MOSCOW: Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov stepped forward to talk up the prospects for staging of the World Cup next year just as speculation began to stir about the future role of Vitaly Mutko writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Simultaneously the Russia anti-doping agency RUSADA announced it was ready to support an inquiry into doping in domestic league football between 2012 and 2015.

Mutko’s joint status as president of the Russian Football Union and of the local organising committee for the World Cup has proved increasingly embarrassing for world federation FIFA after the ongoing scandal surrounding the allegations of a long-running¬† institutionalised doping and cover-up programme.

He was Sports Minister when Russia landed the World Cup award back in December 2010 and was the official ‘face’ of the local organisers last summer at the Confederations Cup warm-up event, albeit now in the role of Deputy Prime Minister.

Mutko has been an invaluable lightning conductor and long-time associate of President Vladimir Putin but several Russian media sources have suggested a shake-up in the LOC and/or the RFU whose executive committee holds a possibly decisive meeting on December 26.

Thus Kolobkov took centre stage in an end-of-year interview with the TASS agency about Russia’s sports event strategy moving forward.

Both looking back and looking forward Kolobkov said: “If we talk about sports competitions that Russia held this year, I would like to mention the Confederations Cup which was held at a very high level as was noted by fans who came from other countries, journalists and of course FIFA.The experience of the Confederation Cup will help us very much in organising the World Cup.”

That is not all the future holds.

Kolobkov added: “We hold about 500 tournaments a year, this year we had world championships in sambo, shooting, chess.We signed a new contract for the holding of a Formula 1 grand prix and will hold it until 2025.”

As far as doping in Russian football is concerned, RUSADA’s announcement was also timed to try to ease growing pressure following claims in last year’s report to the World Anti-Doping Agency from Canadian law professor Richard McLaren.

Margarita Pakhnotskaya, the first deputy general director of RUSADA, told TASS:¬†“RUSADA will provide all possible support to the Russian Football Union in its investigation of the results of competitive doping testing in the Russian championship.

“We are also ready to cooperate with FIFA, if necessary, RUSADA pursues a policy of intolerance towards violations doping legislation, whenever they occur.”

WADA recently obtained an electronic data file from the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory system, which contains all information on doping tests for the period from January 2012 to August 2015. Two weeks ago WADA provided a number of international federations, including FIFA, with information from this database.

No doubt the Russians would rather be party to any investigation rather than waiting on the outside.

##############