MOSCOW – Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Monday that he is taking a six-month leave of absence from his post as head of Russia’s RFS soccer federation as he appeals a lifetime ban from the Olympics over doping.
The RFS director-general, Alexandr Alaev, will run the organization in Mutko’s absence.
On Dec. 5, the International Olympic Committee imposed a lifetime ban on Mutko and a long list of Russia athletes. The IOC also ruled that Russians cleared to take part in the 2018 Winter Games would have to compete under the Olympic flag, not that of Russia.
Mutko is regarded in the West as the mastermind of an effort to conceal doping by Russian athletes during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
He said Monday that he will ask the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn the IOC decision.
Dismissing the doping accusations as politically motivated, Mutko told a press conference that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has yet to present any conclusive proof of Russian cheating.
While stepping down from the RFS leadership, Mutko said that he will remain as head of Russia’s 2018 World Cup organizing committee as long as he retains the confidence of President Vladimir Putin.
He did not comment on recent claims that WADA was investigating 34 Russian soccer players – including the entire 2014 World Cup squad – for possible doping.
On the occasion of the 2018 World Cup draw, held Dec. 1 in Moscow, Mutko denied that Russian footballers used banned substances.
Mutko was removed as Russia’s sports minister in October 2016 amid the doping scandal.