Chairman of Russia World Cup Organizing Committee Steps Down Amid Olympics Doping Scandal

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – DECEMBER 01: The Russian deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko talks to the media during a talk show presentation prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Draw at the Kremlin on December 1, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

The chairman of Russia’s successful 2018 World Cup local organizing committee is stepping down amid allegations that he and other government officials supervised and financed state-sponsored doping, state-run media reported Wednesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, who served as minister of sport from 2008 to 2016, is presently fighting a lifetime ban from the Olympics.

Alexey Sorokin, general director of the committee’s supervisory council, will now assume Mutko’s role as well. In a statement to Russian television network RT, he said he regretted that Mutko had resigned, but that the deputy prime minister would continue to supervise World Cup preparations.

“I am ready to work in both positions. There are no big difficulties. The project is almost done. There are operational activities where the functions of the chairman and the general director of the organizing committee will be similar, ” Sorokin said, according to RT.

In a statement, FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, thanked Mutko for his “invaluable contribution to the preparations for the competition” and said FIFA would continue working with the local organizing committee.

A former senator, Mutko also held the title of president of Russia’s Football Union, the governing body for soccer in the country, but he said Tuesday he would step down from that post as well to focus on litigation related to his Olympics ban, state-run media reported.

FIFA thanked Mutko for his decision, saying it was “made in the interests of the 2018 World Cup in Russia,” state-run media reported. Mutko stepping down will have no effect on the World Cup, FIFA said.

“I am not resigning and my mandate will be still valid,” Mutko said, according to RT. “I will definitely return after the six months, perhaps earlier.”

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SOURCE: CNN, Eliott C. McLaughlin