Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s deputy prime minister and a longtime sports official for the country, may soon relinquish his role as leader of the organizing committee for next summer’s World Cup after drawing intense scrutiny for his role in Russia’s state-supported doping program.
Several Russian news outlets, citing unnamed sources, reported on Thursday that Mutko would soon step down as the president of Russia’s soccer federation, a surprising capitulation by one of the country’s top officials as government leaders have responded defiantly to doping allegations.
Russia’s soccer federation is scheduled to meet on Tuesday.
In announcing this month that Russia’s Olympic team would be barred from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the International Olympic Committee also barred Mutko for life from the Olympics. He had been Russia’s top sports official during the 2014 Sochi Games and was implicated by the doping whistle-blower Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov.
Mutko, a FIFA executive since 2009, had long been Russia’s minister of sports, tourism and youth policy. Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, elevated him to deputy prime minister in October 2016.
Mutko’s departure from his leadership role for the World Cup would reduce some of the pressure on FIFA, the global governing body for soccer. Its officials have been widely criticized for Mutko’s continued presence after the Olympic committee’s decision to bar him.
FIFA has said that the I.O.C.’s punishments for Olympic doping would have “no impact” on its preparations for the tournament, which begins in June.
Mutko has vehemently denied any state-sponsored doping.
“I’m happy to go to any court, to any disciplinary committee, to anyone, and I’ll be happy to talk about how there has never been and will never be any state programs related to doping in this country,” Mutko said recently.