By Andrew Warshaw
December 6 – The position of Russian World Cup supremo Vitaly Mutko has been catapulted back into the spotlight following the International Olympic Committee’s far-reaching decision to ban all Russian athletes from competing under their own flag at next year’s winter Olympics as punishment for a state-sponsored doping programme.
Less than an hour after the IOC’s decision in Lausanne on Tuesday, FIFA went into damage-limitation mode by insisting the ban, which sent shockwaves through world sport, had “no impact on the preparations for the 2018 World Cup”.
In other words business as usual but the ramifications cannot be over-estimated.
Mutko himself was barred by the IOC from attending all future Olympic Games, hugely embarrassing for FIFA who have already had to stomach their closest World Cup ally being stripped of his membership of the decision-making FIFA Council because of a conflict of interest.
Mutko is also head of the Russian Football Union as well as deputy prime minister and last week shared a platform with FIFA president Gianni Infantino at the World Cup draw in Moscow as he lashed out at his critics and those of Russia as a whole.
Mutko didn’t mince his words as he refuted all allegations of state-sponsored doping which, according to Canadian law professor Dr Richard McLaren whose explosive report sparked the current crisis, included 33 footballers.
But his words fell on deaf ears as the IOC, after completing its own prolonged investigations, handed Russia unprecedented penalties for systemic manipulation of anti-doping results – just at the time Mutko was the country’s Sports Minister.
Many will now question how Infantino can simply wash his hands of yet another scandal involving either a FIFA powerbroker or someone closely linked to the organisation. After promising a new beginning when he took over, he is now faced with the reputation of the chairman of the World Cup organising committee being severely damaged – not just in the media but officially.
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