Russia’s deputy prime minister has sought to play down evidence that suggests his direct involvement in the country’s systematic doping programme.
Diary entries from the key whistleblower in the Russian doping scandal have been published, detailing meetings with Vitaly Mutko, who was the country’s sports minister at the time.
Mutko remains president of Russia’s FA, headed the bid for the 2018 World Cup, and will be a key figure in the draw on Friday in Moscow. The diary entries of Grigory Rodchenkov, former head of the Moscow anti-doping lab and now living under federal protection in the United States, directly implicate Mutko.
The timing is particularly damaging with the sporting world’s focus on Russia in the run-up to the World Cup and coming a week before the International Olympic Committee will rule on Russia’s involvement at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next year.
Mutko did not seem particularly perturbed by publication of the Rodchenkov diaries by the New York Times. “I have no time to read it right now,” he said. In a separate interview with the BBC, Mutko said Russia had become accustomed to dealing with such allegations. “Of course that’s a huge disappointment that we have to pay so much attention to such problems in the context of Russia. The same situation happened with the Olympic Games in Sochi. Now it’s happening again right before the World Cup.”
Britain’s four-man bobsleigh team are set to be awarded a retrospective bronze medal from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi after the International Olympic Committee announced more doping sanctions for Russian athletes.
The crew of John Jackson, Bruce Tasker, Stuart Benson and Joel Fearon initially finished fifth in Sochi. But the IOC has now confirmed that Aleksandr Kasyanov, Aleksei Pushkarev and Ilvir Khuzin – who all competed for Russia’s B team that originally finished fourth – have been disqualified over their involvement in the Russian doping scandal.
With Russia’s A team also being disqualified this week by an IOC disciplinary commission over the Sochi 2014 doping scandal, the GB team look certain to be upgraded to bronze, with Latvia taking gold and the US silver.
The latest verdicts bring the total of Russian athletes sanctioned by the IOC for being involved in a state-sponsored programme in Sochi to 22 – and will increase the pressure on the IOC to ban Russia from 2018 Winter Olympics when it meets on Tuesday in Lausanne.
Benson and Jackson have since retired. Jackson revealed he cried when his wife told him the news of his impending promotion. “When Paula told me, there was not much I could say back to her,” he said. “I was pretty speechless and didn’t really know what to think.
“There’s no point being annoyed or angry about not being able to stand on the Olympic podium because that moment has gone and it doesn’t matter how much we dwell on it, we’ll never get it back. It’s just looking forward to getting to that point that, once all the appeals have gone through and hopefully we do get upgraded to the medal, we can stand on a podium somewhere or receive the medals together rather than through the post.”