World football’s governing body FIFA has endorsed Vitaly Mutko’s decision to temporarily step down as head of the Russian Football Union (RFU), adding that the decision was made “in the interests of the 2018 World Cup.”
“FIFA understands Mr. Mutko’s decision, which was also made in the interests of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. FIFA thanks Mr. Mutko for taking such a responsible step and the work he has done so far to prepare for the World Cup,” TASS reported the statement as saying.
“Mutko’s decision will not have any impact on the football World Cup organization, as FIFA along with the Russian government and the Organizing Committee continue their productive cooperation to make all necessary preparations [to stage the World Cup] according to the plan. In the coming days, FIFA will discuss the next steps regarding the Organizing Committee’s work with all the sides involved,” the statement read.
On Monday Mutko, who is also Russian Deputy Prime Minister, announced his decision to temporarily leave his post as RFU chief for six months to concentrate on legal proceedings regarding his Olympic lifetime ban.
“I have made a decision and informed the RFU Executive Board about it,” Mutko said at the RFU meeting.
“One of the union’s regulations implies that if a president is unable to carry out his duties, he should step down. In order for the RFU to proceed I have requested to suspend my duties for a period of up to six months. I am not resigning and my mandate will be still valid.”
“I will definitely return after the six months, perhaps earlier,” he added.
On December 5 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) handed a lifetime ban to former Russian Sports Minister Mutko, as part of the ongoing investigation into an alleged state-sponsored doping system in Russia, prohibiting him from attending any Olympic Games in any capacity. Mutko’s name was indicated in the McLaren report, based on the testimony of the former head of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory Grigory Rodchenkov, who fled Russia at the end of 2015 and is currently facing charges of trafficking highly potent illicit drugs in his home country.
The McLaren report was used as the basis for two IOC-sanctioned Commissions whose findings and conclusions have led to the disqualification of more than 40 Russian team members as well as to a controversial Olympic ban of the entire Russian squad.
Russian athletes who have never been convicted of doping are to be allowed to take part in the 2018 PyeongChang Games under a neutral flag, on condition their participation is approved by a specially appointed IOC doping review panel.
Mutko, who denies the existence of any state-backed doping system, said he will file an appeal with the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) Tuesday to overturn the IOC verdict which denies him access to the Olympic Games.
“Nobody accused me in those reports. It just so happened to be that all the responsibility has been on me since the 2010 Vancouver Games. And I, as the minister of sports at that time, was banned from attending the Olympics,” Mutko said at a meeting of the Russian Football Union (RFU).
RFU Director General Alexander Alayev has been made acting president of the body during Mutko’s temporary layoff.
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