MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s World Cup can’t avoid the tarnished legacy of Russia’s Winter Olympics.
The doping scandals that have consumed Russian sports for the last three years took another turn Tuesday as the International Olympic Committee handed a lifetime ban to Vitaly Mutko, the sports minister during the 2014 Sochi Games.
After Sochi, the IOC ruled the host nation operated a doping program and tampered with Russian athletes’ urine samples. Still, Mutko has maintained a prominent role in Russian sports. He is now a deputy prime minister and is in charge of the country’s World Cup preparations as chairman of the local organizing committee for the June tournament.
The IOC commission didn’t directly accuse the Kremlin or Mutko of any wrongdoing for Sochi but found the sports ministry “has to bear the major part of the administrative responsibility” because it was responsible for overseeing anti-doping measures at the 2014 Olympics. It also found in the case of Mutko’s then deputy minister, Yuri Nagornykh, that “it is impossible to conclude that he was not aware of the system in place.”
FIFA said Tuesday the IOC ruling wouldn’t affect the World Cup, which begins in June.
“This decision has no impact on the preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup as we continue to work to deliver the best possible event,” soccer’s world governing body said in a statement which didn’t mention Mutko by name.
FIFA added it was investigating evidence involving soccer raised by earlier World Anti-Doping Agency reports.
“When it comes to potential disciplinary or ethical matters concerning specific individuals, it will be up to the respective FIFA bodies to evaluate them. Please understand that any information on specific disciplinary or ethical matters will be communicated accordingly…