Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko will no longer have governmental responsibility for the World Cup, the latest soccer-related role he has left after being implicated in the state-sponsored doping scheme.
Another deputy minister, Arkady Dvorkovich, has been appointed chairman of the local organizing committee and will coordinate the tournament at a government level, FIFA and Russian officials said Tuesday.
FIFA said it would work “on all operational matters” with Dvorkovich and organizing committee chief executive Alexei Sorokin, who had previously been announced as Mutko’s replacement as chairman.
Mutko quit as both head of the World Cup organizing committee and Russian Football Union last month but he had maintained he would continue to be involved in planning for the June 14-July 15 tournament.
The announcement that Mutko’s World Cup government role was ending came with exactly 100 days until the World Cup and in the wake of former Moscow laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov telling The Associated Press that the former sports minister issued orders to cover up doping in soccer.
Rodchenkov claimed an instruction to “avoid any scandal” came from Mutko, ensuring that “Russian footballers were immune from doping-control actions or sanctions.”
While Mutko has been banned for life from the Olympics, he has not faced any footballing sanctions.
“When they (Russian footballers) had AAFs those results were supposed to stay out of ADAMS,” Rodchenkov said, referring to adverse analytical findings not being logged in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s administration and management system.
Russia has denied there was a state-sponsored doping system but Mutko said last month that national team player Ruslan Kambolov, a defender at Rubin Kazan, was one of two Russian players already embroiled in a FIFA doping investigation.
Although Rodchenkov oversaw the destruction of around 8,000 doping controls in 2014 when the state-backed scheme was exposed, WADA managed to seize 3,000 samples. Forensic checks have just started on 154 samples from footballers to detect any manipulation of the samples, including scratch marks which could prove that bottles were forced open and tainted urine swapped out.
FIFA medical committee chairman Michel D’Hooghe said he “cannot say” if the analysis would be completed before Russia opens the World Cup against Saudi Arabia.
“That depends on WADA. That depends on the laboratories,” D’Hooghe told the AP last week. “We are collaborating in all that we can to find the truth about what is happening in the world of football. … I know if there is proof of a positive case that our disciplinary committee will take action.”
Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports
AP World Cup coverage: www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup