MOSCOW—Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, who has been hit with a lifetime ban from the Olympic Games over doping, on Monday said he is suspending his role as president of the Russian Football Union while he contests the ban in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“I have decided to file the claim in the CAS tomorrow,” he said.
“So that our organizations are not disturbed during the legal investigation… I have asked to suspend my duties for up to six months,” Mutko told journalists after a meeting of the RFU executive committee.
He said that he will continue his duties in the government as well as preparing the World Cup which is being staged in Russia this summer until Russian leadership decides otherwise.
“Regarding the issues of relationship with FIFA and the organising committee, as long as the president (Vladimir Putin) trusts me, I continue to work as deputy premier and oversee the preparations for the world championships,” he said.
He said he would “suggest” stepping down as chairman of the World Cup organising committee he heads, but “it would be decided by the head of state, the head of government and the supervisory board.”
Mutko said RFU’s director Alexander Alayev will become acting president for the duration of his own suspension, which could last less than six months depending on the duration of the legal proceedings.
Alayev told journalists that his goal would be to “keep stability” and “avoid any scandal” during the six months.
Mutko said he decided to contest his ban in court because failure to do so would make him seem guilty. However, he denied that he is resigning.
“I’m not resigning, my mandate is still active.”
The deputy prime minister had been banned from the Rio 2016 Games. This month he was banned for life from all Olympic Games after the International Olympic Committee said he was involved in a state-backed doping programme.
FIFA ‘understands’ decision
Despite the ban, Mutko has retained his role as head of the Russia 2018 World Cup organising committee.
FIFA has contacted Canadian law professor Richard McLaren about his report about state-organised doping in Russia which named several Russian footballers.
FIFA said Monday that Mutko’s decision will not impact the World Cup.
“FIFA understands Mr Mutko’s decision which was also taken in the best interest of the World Cup next summer. FIFA thanks Mr. Mutko for this responsible step and for the work carried out so far for the World Cup,” said a FIFA spokesman.
“Mr Mutko’s decision will have no impact on the successful staging of the World Cup next summer, as FIFA, the Russian government, RFU and the local organising committee continue their fruitful cooperation on the preparations for the World Cup according to plan.”
Mutko, 58, had until now retained his posts in Russia throughout the doping scandal, and was even promoted from sports minister. He has dismissed doping allegation as an attempt to create an image of an “axis of evil” against his country.
Mutko maintained Russian athletes at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games were clean and that Russia “did a colossal job” to meet requirements by the world anti-doping body to clear its name.
Mutko in March was barred from sitting on the FIFA Council, the world body’s ruling top table where the Russian sports official had a seat since 2009.
His participation was blocked because of potential conflicts of interest with his government role.