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Russian Doping Scandal

Persona non grata: Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko barred from attending Rio Games

International Olympic Committee bars Russian sports minister and other ministry officials from attending Olympic Games after the revelation of a state-run doping system.

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 July, 2016, 11:22pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 July, 2016, 11:06am

The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday barred Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko and other ministry officials from attending the Rio Games after the revelation of a state-run doping system.

“The IOC will not grant any accreditation to any official of the Russian Ministry of Sport or any person implicated in the (independent) report for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad Rio 2016,” said an IOC statement.

The combative Mutko is now barred from Rio after the International Olympic Committee said it will not grant accreditation to “any official” from Russia’s badly tainted sports ministry.

But back at home, the 57-year-old Mutko appears to have retained the support of Russian president Vladimir Putin -- a long-time associate -- at least for now.

The Kremlin has vowed to suspend officials directly implicated in the McLaren report, but insisted there was no hard proof against Mutko, who has been sports minister since 2008.

Mutko told the R-Sport news agency that there “were not and cannot be any allegations directed against me”.

The reign of Mutko has come as judo-loving former KGB agent Putin focused on sport to bolster Russia’s image on the world stage.

During his time at the helm Russia has poured gigantic sums into holding the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and won the right to host the 2018 World Cup.

An independent inquiry commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency said the Russian sports ministry organised a ‘state-dictated failsafe system’ of cheating by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics and other major events hosted by Russia.

Deputy sports minister Yury Nagornykh is among officials to have been suspended by the Kremlin since the report was released on Monday.

As with many of those at the top in Russia today, Mutko’s ties to Putin go way back to the early 1990s when the pair worked together in the mayor’s office in the president’s hometown of Saint Petersburg.

“They had friendly relations, which is why he ended up on Putin’s team,” said Lyudmila Fomichyova, who worked in the same office as the pair. “Putin does not give up his people.”

Sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya, who studies the Russian elites, says that Mutko has maintained the Kremlin strongman’s trust by remaining doggedly loyal.

“Putin gives orders and these orders are fulfilled,” she said. “Putin considers that Mutko does this, which is why he is apparently considered effective.”

At a time when relations between Russia and the West over Ukraine have collapsed, Mutko has played up suspicions in Moscow that sport has been caught up in a new Cold War as well.

A veteran of scandals from FIFA to Olympic graft claims, Mutko -- who also headed football club Zenit Saint Petersburg -- has already faced down controversies big and small.

He pushed back after a probe into FIFA bribery cast a shadow over Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup and brushed off corruption allegations over the billions spent on the Sochi Olympics.