February 20 – The whistleblower whose revelations prompted the Russian doping scandal claims he was personally instructed by the country’s former sports supremo Vitaly Mutko, until recently a senior member of FIFA’s inner circle, to make sure footballers were protected.
Former laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov, breaking his long silence in an interview with The Associated Press, said the instructions he received to “avoid any scandal” were part of a far-reaching conspiracy.
Mutko, Russia’s deputy prime minister who was barred from retaining his seat on the FIFA Council because of a conflict of interest, recently stepped down as head of the World Cup organising committee and of the Russian Football Union.
Although banned for life from the Olympics, Mutko has not faced any footballing sanctions and has long denied any involvement in alleged state-sponsored doping which, according to Canadian law professor Dr Richard McLaren’s explosive report that sparked the current crisis, included 33 footballers some of whom, reports claim, were members of Russia’s 2014 World Cup squad.
Rodchenkov, who has been in hiding in the United States, told AP through his lawyer that he was mandated by Mutko to ensure “Russian footballers were immune from doping-control actions or sanctions.”
“Mutko ordered protection for Russian footballers when he was the president of the Russian Football Union,” Rodchenkov charged. “He told me directly to ‘avoid any scandal by hiding positive results’ and ‘doping would be handled internally,’ meaning that those doping irresponsibly or without protocols could be disciplined or reported.”
Russian authorities argue Rodchenkov’s credibility is flawed since he is being given protection in the USA but he told AP: “I am speaking the truth. No one is influencing me.”
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