Fifa stands by the man who made doping a national industry
Vitaly Mutko has been given an Olympic ban but world football’s governing body has no problem with him heading up next year’s World Cup in Russia
Russia’s elaborate doping made East Germany’s State Plan 14.25 look like a school chemistry experiment
If anybody still thinks that the decision to ban Russia from next year’s Winter Olympics represents a bright day for truth and justice, it is worth considering how happy the supposed victims are about it all. Alexander Zhukov, Russia’s Olympic kingpin, exuded the relief of a man whose team had dodged a bullet this week. “They’ll be called Russian athletes and not some kind of neutrals – that’s very important,” he said. Come the closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, the country’s tricolor could, if everyone plays along, be fluttering overhead once more. It smacks less of a righteous crusade by the International Olympic Committee than of a face-saving pact between Lausanne and the Kremlin.
And, yet, when it comes to the fine art of supranational sporting bodies convening beside Swiss lakes to do as little as possible, the IOC will always be gazumped by Fifa. No sooner had IOC president Thomas Bach confirmed that Vitaly Mutko – Russia’s deputy prime minister, and orchestrator of institutionalised doping so elaborate it made the East Germans’ State Plan 14.25 look like a school chemistry experiment – would be unwelcome at future Games, than Fifa, in its infinite integrity, indicated it had no problem with him leading arrangements for the 2018 World Cup. “This has no impact on preparations as we continue working to deliver the best possible event,” read the bloodless statement from Zurich. No impact? According to whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov’s 52-page affidavit to the Schmid Commission, both Mutko and Yuri Nagornykh, his then deputy in the Russian sports ministry, “knew about and asserted control over the state-sponsored system”.
Mutko told Nagornykh of the need for success at the Sochi Winter Games in 2014 “at any cost”, as his lieutenant set about refining the doping protocols. Soon after London 2012, he had also approached Rodchenkov, head of the “Sochi lab”, about finding the most effective drug for Russian Olympians to use without risk of detection.
Throughout Rodchenkov’s testimony, described by former Swiss premier Samuel Schmid as “watertight”, Mutko is assigned not so much a walk-on part as star billing. He conveyed “extreme anger” when Elena Lashmanova, a race walker, was accidentally doped with a performance-enhancing peptide, fearing his house of cards was about to collapse. Mutko was sent written warnings by Rodchenkov, highlighting the “disaster” of improved testing and the “sloppy
Caught out: Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s deputy prime minister, walks past a picture of legendary Soviet Union goalkeeper Lev Yashin