Reflections on the corrupt leadership in the Russian Federation’s sports hierarchy: more on Mutko

Reflections on the corrupt leadership in the Russian Federations sports hierarchy: more on Mutko

Alan Tomlinson

The McLaren Reports showed, in July and November 2016, involvement at the highest levels of the Russian Federation (across government, the Russian Federal Security Service [FSB], and the national sport organisations) in the corrupt doping practices that stained the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014: the substitution of positive urine samples of athletes; state agents planted in or around dope-testing laboratories; and holes drilled in walls for the clandestine transfer of tampered-with bottles. These practices were also in place in part when Russias teams competed at the London 2012 Summer Olympics. The IOC decision to ban Russia from the forthcoming Winter Olympics, taken on Tuesday December 5th 2017 was vital to the credibility of the IOC. Anyone with the time to read through McLarens reports could see that the Russian Federations DPM (Disappearing Positive Methodology) system was a tragi-comic betrayal of the more idealistic claims of sport, and this was plain to see for those who looked closely enough way before the IOCs own commissioned report on the situation. Vitaly Mutko, head of the Russian-hosted FIFA World Cup in June-July 2018, ducking and weaving in Russia itself and the corridors of international sports organisations, has long been exposed as a henchman of a ruthless President Putin. The IOC decision to ban his federation/nation from the Pyeongchang Games, and to ban Mutko himself for life, including from any contact with the Winter Olympics, may see him lose favour with the Russian president. Here I offer vignettes of Mutko and his amoral machinations. The question surely, in being reminded of Mutko’s history of unethical conduct and amoral malpractices, is why neither the IOC nor FIFA moved earlier to put an end to his corrupt power-broking and deal-making.       


Excerpts below from: Lincoln Allison and Alan Tomlinson, Understanding International Sport Organisations: Principles, Power and Possibilities (London and New York, Routledge, 2017)

(based on pp. 137-38) On the publication of the McLaren report, Russian President Putin commented that it represented ‘a dangerous slide towards political interference in sport’, stemming as it did from a single and dubious source, ‘one man with a scandalous reputation’ added Putin, master of doublespeak from his earlier career in the Soviet Union’s secret intelligence organisation, the KGB. But for Canadian lawyer McLaren, the biggest ‘surprise result’ of the inquiry was the level and scale of state involvement in the process: ‘the revelation of the extent of State oversight and directed control of the Moscow Laboratory in processing, and covering up urine samples of Russian athletes from virtually all sports before and after the Sochi Games’. McLaren claims that his investigation shows in unprecedented depth ‘proof of State directed oversight and corruption of the entirety of the Moscow laboratory’s analytical work’. Russia’s Ministry of Sport, its Federal Security Service and its so-called Anti-Doping Agency worked closely in clandestine and corrupt fashion to subvert WADA’s work and manufacture its Sochi success. One FSB operative was on the spot throughout the Sochi Games, with security clearance to enter the laboratory ‘under the guise of being a security engineer employed by engineering company Bilfinger’. Dr Rodkenchov had a double identity/role: director of the Moscow Laboratory and also FSB agent, code-name KUTS, responsible to his FSB superior who in turn would report to an FSB general. Vitaly Mutko, Minister of Sport, was also involved in the scheme: ‘it is inconceivable that Minister Mutko was not aware of the doping cover up scheme’, as Rodchenkov discussed the DPM (Disappearing Positive Methodology) plan with Mutko in meetings before the Sochi Games.

(based on pp. 181-82) In July 2016 Minister Mutko, as McLaren called him, was damned in the WADA-commissioned report on Russia’s state-run doping programme: Mutko’s ministry effectively ran the doping cover-ups in Russia’s disgraced anti-doping laboratories, as graphically outlined in McLaren’s reports. Mutko also personally ordered the doctoring of a foreign footballer’s urine sample, making the decision to cover up this player’s use of banned substances. His reward from Putin, in October 2016, was promotion to the newly-created position of Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.

(based on p.227) Vitaly Mutko was rewarded in October 2016 for his commitment and loyalty to Putin with elevation to the newly created post of deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation. Mutko’s brief in the new role was to embrace and oversee policies for sport, tourism and youth, little different to his task at his old ministry. It was in effect a way of moving him out of the immediate doping spotlight and of shifting responsibilities for responding to the doping issues to his successor, former Olympic fencer and erstwhile member of WADA’s foundation board and also Mutko’s deputy at the sports ministry, Pavel Kolobkov; and to veteran Soviet/Russian sports administrator Vitaly Smirnov. Smirnov would claim in November 2016 that ‘Russia has never had a state-doping system’, whilst offering a definition of ‘government’ as comprising full ministers and not deputy ministers, implying therefore that some of the latter may have been implicated in doping cover-ups.


Excerpt below from forthcoming Chapter 9, Alan Tomlinson’s “FIFA: Ethics, voice and organisational power plays”, in T.F Carter, Daniel Burdsey and Mark Doidge (eds), Transforming Sport (London and New York, Routledge, 2018)    

(based on p.131) One can only conclude that for several years no-one had been concerned – or courageous – enough within FIFA to question Mutko’s position, to alert the Ethics Committee and its Chambers to the need to interrogate Mutko’s strikingly obvious conflicts of interest in the conduct of his FIFA responsibilities. Fear was the order of the day, not integrity. Changes in the personnel at the head of FIFA’s ethics processes did lead to further scrutiny of Mutko in March 2017, and this adjudged him to be ineligible for re-election onto the main FIFA committee, now the FIFA Council, due to a conflict of interests stemming from his political status. Mutko merely shrugged his shoulders: ‘I wanted to get re-elected but FIFA has changed its criteria. A new criterion has been introduced: political neutrality’. FIFA had of course done nothing of the sort; the criterion was always prominent and unambiguous. In March 2017 though it looked as if FIFA’s decision-makers may be less timid than in corrupt president Sepp Blatter’s prime. But this was not worrying Mutko; by now no-one was going to take World Cup 2018 away from Russia, he was elevated to Deputy Prime Minister and able to muse that everything that Putin had wanted from him had been delivered. In December by the end of that year, though, the IOC was to condemn Mutko in the strongest terms.


So what’s next for the serially unethical Mutko, after the IOC decision? Outside of the Russian Federation, more witnesses were appearing to reaffirm all that had been revealed in the McLaren Reports. And more sources looked to be asking questions about the precise nature of Russia’s lobbying in the run-in to the December 2010 vote that awarded the country the FIFA (men’s) World Cup Finals for 2018. Mutko was one of those who voted on that decision, never declaring any possible conflict of interests, and has included the head of the 2018 World Cup operation among his continuing sporting duties. He may have, at least so far, survived and even strengthened his position and status in his home country, despite the IOC ban that he could claim to be a discretionary act against his country. But FIFA, constantly claiming under the presidency of Gianni Infantino to be reformed or reformable, must take the time to revisit and further examine the career and portfolio of Vitaly Mutko, in Russian football, FIFA decision-making and World Cup administration. He could become a record-breaker in the annals of sport corruption: the only person to be simultaneously serving life-bans from both FIFA and the IOC.

Alan Tomlinson                                                      6th December 2017