In March, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko condemned the reports of widespread corruption in Russian athletics as a political tool.
“There is tremendous pressure on decision-makers in track-and-field events and the Russian anti-doping system. There is an impact, of course. If you hear about endless things about the Russians with your morning Sunday Times and your tea, there is an impact; it was intended that way. And they all have objectives – destroying an achievement, removing a competitor, etc…”
A few month later, CBS aired their “60 Minutes” interview with whistleblower and former Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) employee Vitaly Stepanov. Mutko responded by attacking the man’s credibility, telling reporters: “It is obvious that someone wants to harm Russian sport. What facts does he have, what lists, why has he decided to come out with the latest claims now?”
At first glance, Mutko’s skepticism doesn’t seem too outlandish – except Stepanov’s claims have been widely corroborated and Mutko has now admitted that he was aware of the problem. Not to mention, Stepanov was a key witness in the WADA investigation and subsequent 323-page report
detailing Russia’s state-sponsored doping scheme, and included many of the aforementioned ‘lists
‘ and ‘facts
Yet somehow, despite the extensive corruption uncovered while he was Sports Minister, Mutko wound up getting a promotion.
In October of 2016, Medvedev personally appointed him Deputy Prime Minister
. To set the scene: at this point, the former Sport Minister had been accused of personally
concealing doping violations, and also admitted
that he knew bout this culture of corruption as far back as 2009
. But instead of firing him, Medvedev put him a position of even greater power.
And since getting the new position, very little has changed. Mutko has continued to push the narrative that Russia is being unfairly targeted in these corruption probes. When The McLaren Report was published in December, Mutko responded to the damning document by saying it was “yet another attempt on Russian sport… it’s nothing, it’s fine”.
?! He’s talking about a report
that contained evidence of widespread state-sponsored doping and showed evidence about the coordinated cover-up of positive test-results in over 30 sports. And we’re talking about events that took place under his watch.
But “it’s nothing, it’s fine”.
It’s not hard to understand why Thomas Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), was allegedly so upset
over Mutko’s selection as Deputy PM. And Bach’s not alone; Mutko’s promotion was a slap in the face to anyone with legitimate concerns over this issue. Joseph de Pencier
, head of the Institute of National Anti-Doping Agencies (iNADO), is also unhappy with the way Russia’s handling the situation. When he sat down with CNN, he said it was time that Russia started to “show some contrition to the sporting world.”
Instead, they’re doing to opposite. According to TASS
, Russia’s independent anti-doping commission is currently preparing a response to the McLaren Report and have said they’ll present their findings “after the report is scrutinized.”
Mutko not only refused to back down in his assertions – continuing to claim
that all of this was a “deliberate attack on Russian sport aimed at its defamation” – he’s also declared his candidacy
to fill a vacancy on the FIFA Council.
So… I guess they do things a little differently in Moscow.