Russian politician Vitaly Mutko: Doping cover-up claim revenge for World Cup
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko says claims he intervened to conceal a Krasnodar player's positive drug test are "laughable" and suggested the doping furore was a response to the nation winning the right to host the 2018 World Cup.
The allegations were made in a documentary aired on Wednesday night by German broadcaster ARD at a time when Russia has been facing serious questions over doping across several sports.
Mutko referenced the calls for the 2018 World Cup to be reassigned amid investigations into the voting process and said this was just the latest attempt to undermine the country as a result of its success in winning the hosting rights.
Mutko told reporters including the RIA news agency: "One of the reasons for the doping scandal with Russian sportspeople is the desire to dredge for compromising information with regard to the 2018 World Cup.
"First they tried through FIFA but didn't succeed. Now they are investigating the laundering of bribes, they are trying to get in from the other side."
Mutko argued the ARD documentary could have been aimed to show that Russia's anti-doping efforts "were not genuine."
It came at a time when Russia is hoping the IAAF will lift its suspension of Russia's track and field athletes in time to compete in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and Russia Today quoted him as saying: "This is a sort of an information attack.
"The aim of this and other publications is clear to me -- it is to influence [the ruling] of the athletics committee on the eve of the meeting."
The ARD programme cited what it said were Mutko's initials on a document as proof that the minister helped to cover up a positive test of an unidentified player for Russian club Krasnodar.
The documentary alleged that an internal email discussing the failed test should be sent on to "VL," which it said was a reference to Vitaly Leontiyevich Mutko.
"The initials could be somebody else's," Mutko said, according to the Tass news agency. "Thousands of people use me as a reference. How can I help somebody to cover up something? Destroy it myself? This is laughable and implausible."
Mutko blamed the accusations on Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Moscow drug-testing lab now living in Los Angeles, who revealed details of Russian doping in an interview with the New York Times last month. Rodchenkov said he personally switched tainted urine samples for clean ones at the doping lab used for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, with help from people he believed to be officers of the Russian security services.
"He has one target -- me," Mutko said of Rodchenkov. "I can feel in all of his interviews that he hates me. This is a targeted attack on Russia, calculated and well-organised. Mr. Rodchenkov is working for the people who gave him shelter."
Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, indicated on Wednesday that the Kremlin treats the ARD allegations as libel and stands by Mutko.
On Wednesday, Mutko said he wanted all retested doping samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics to be thrown out because of alleged flaws in the reanalysis process.
The IOC has reported 55 positive findings in retesting of stored samples from the 2008 Beijing Games and 2012 London Olympics. The Russian Olympic Committee has said 22 of the cases involved Russian athletes, including medalists.
Russian officials said two of the athletes were cleared when their "B" samples tested negative, contradicting the positive "A" samples. Mutko said those two cases were enough justification for the entire retesting program to be scrapped.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.