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Vitaly Mutko faces FIFA ethics scrutiny for role in Russia scandal

In a clash of sports mired in crisis, the FIFA ethics committee will study Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko's role in his country's damaging doping scandal.

Besides being sports minister, Mutko also serves on the FIFA executive committee and is running the World Cup organising committee ahead of the 2018 tournament in Russia.

On Monday, a World Anti-Doping Agency panel put Mutko's sports ministry at the heart of the doping conspiracy in Russia, claiming it was linked to ''intimidation and interference'' and gave direct orders to manipulate samples.

''We are analyzing this documentation carefully,'' the FIFA ethics committee investigation chamber said on Tuesday in a statement.

The unfolding Russian story -- combined with allegations of corruption and money laundering against former IAAF president Lamine Diack -- threatens to rival scandal-scarred FIFA as the most damaging corruption scandal in world sports.

And Mutko isn't the only executive committee member in an unwanted spotlight this week.

Wolfgang Niersbach resigned on Monday as president of the German football federation, under pressure in a financial scandal linked to his country's successful 2006 World Cup bid, but insisted he will keep his place on the FIFA executive committee.

And in Colombia, Luis Bedoya resigned as federation leader and will lose his post as one of South America's three delegates on the ruling FIFA panel.

Bedoya has been linked to the U.S. Department of Justice probe of FIFA, which said in May that most South American football federation presidents took seven-figure bribes from Copa America rights deals.

Mutko was not linked to financial corruption in the WADA inquiry, which alleged bribery and extortion by other Russian sports officials.

Still, WADA commission leader Dick Pound said Russia practiced state-sponsored cheating and cover-ups of doping in track and field and other sports.

Mutko denied knowledge of wrongdoing in his September interview with Pound's team, which was left skeptical.

''It was not possible for him to be unaware of it,'' Pound said. ''And if he was aware of it, he was complicit in it.''

Pound's report said Mutko was interviewed at the Baur au Lac hotel where he stays on FIFA business in Zurich. The luxury hotel was the site of several early morning raids by Swiss police in May to arrest senior FIFA officials suspected of bribery.

FIFA noted on Tuesday there were ''no indications that football would be involved'' in the WADA inquiry, which has further reports to publish within weeks.

FIFA declined to comment to The Associated Press on whether Russia and Mutko could have broken its rules prohibiting government interference in sport.

Mutko is due to attend a Dec. 2-3 executive committee session in Zurich and discuss reform ideas to improve FIFA governance and curb corruption.

English FA chairman Greg Dyke has told FIFA it must consider suspending Mutko.

"It will be up to FIFA. FIFA will have to decide whether he can stay on the board of FIFA or whether he has to be suspended because of the allegations surrounding athletics," he said. "Having seen the events of yesterday -- I haven't read the report but I've read the reports of the report - whether someone who is involved in all that can stay on the board of FIFA is something FIFA needs to address very quickly.

"He's head of the organising committee, minister for sport... It's not bad is it? He's got about six jobs.

"It wouldn't be fair for me to have a view because I haven't read the details of the report, but there has to be a question mark.

"I've not seen any evidence of corruption in the allocation of the Russian World Cup.

"A lot of very good journalism has been done on whether or not the Qatar World Cup bid was tainted, but I haven't seen it for Russia, but you do wonder."

Niersbach, who was elected by UEFA members to represent them at FIFA through 2019, should also attend next month and contribute to a debate on improving FIFA's image and leadership.

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