Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko was promoted to deputy prime minister on Wednesday, despite coming under scrutiny in the country's recent doping scandal. Former Olympic fencer Pavel Kolobkov will take Mutko’s place.
Despite allegations of covering up state-sponsored doping, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko was promoted to a deputy prime minister on Wendesday.
Mutko becomes one of nine deputy prime ministers in Russia. This position will continue to give him power over sport and includes control over youth affairs and tourism once more, power he has not had since 2012 after a government shake-up.
Mutko is also the president of the Russian Football Association, chairman of the organizing committee of the successful 2018 Russia World Cup bid and a member of the FIFA executive committee.
Embroiled in controversy
Mutko is accused of being a part of the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). WADA founder Dick Pound, who headed the commission that investigated doping in Russia, said last year it was "not possible" for Mutko to be unaware of the doping system and "if he was aware of it, then he was complicit in it." The Russian track team was banned from competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) and the entire Russian Paralympic team was barred from competing in this year's event. Despite denying the accusations, Mutko was not allowed to attend the 2016 Olympics.
Mutko's anti-doping adviser, Nataliya Zhelanova, and one of his deputies at the sports ministry, Yuri Nagornykh, were both suspended by Russian President Vladimir Putin in July after the WADA report accused the two of them for helping cover up hundreds of drug tests.
In football, WADA reported 11 positive tests from Russian Premier League players between 2011 and 2015 that were made to disappear. Email evidence from the report said Mutko personally intervened in the cover up of "at least one foreign footballer in the Russian (Premier) League."
The WADA executive board called on FIFA's independent ethics court to act against Mutko, who has been on FIFA's ruling panel since 2009. WADA urged FIFA "to look into allegations concerning football and the role played by a member of its executive committee, Minister Vitaly Mutko."
Newly promoted deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko and Russian President Putin have a long, warm relationship.
Mutko moved around Russian politics and sporting circles long before his new position. After working as a sailor in St. Petersburg, he quickly rose through the ranks of local politics to become deputy mayor of the city in 1992. At this time, Vladimir Putin headed the mayor's committee for external relations. The two helped organize the first major sporting event in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the 1994 Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg. Mutko moved to sports in 1997, becoming chairman of local club Zenit St. Petersburg. After Putin was elected president, Mutko returned to politics as chair of the sports committee before becoming president of the Russian Football Federation since 2005 and Sports Minister from 2008.
Mutko's replacement is Pavel Kolobkov, a former Olympic fencer. Kolobkov served as a deputy minister under Mutko. Kolobkov won six medals including a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney in individual epee.
kbd/jr (AFP, AP, Reuters)