The possibility that many Russian athletes could be banned once again from the Olympics, which are due to start in South Korea in February, has become an issue in the run-up to Russia’s presidential election, which occurs one month later in March.
One day after Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to blame the United States for the doping scandal that continues to cloud the outlook for Russian athletes, Russian presidential hopeful Ksenia Sobchak took the opposite stance: calling for the resignation of top Russian officials she says are responsible.
In a video message on YouTube on November 10, Sobchak in particular urged Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko to step down, calling the former sports minister during the three year period 2012-2015 that Russia allegedly had a doping program, a “urine-cheating functionary.”
Sobchak accused Mutko and several other Russian sports officials of being responsible for what she called the “fraud with illegal drugs” that is forcing Russian athletes to compete as “neutrals” without being able to acknowledge their country’s flag and anthem — a development which she said is “shameful” for them and the Russian public.
“Do something truly good for Russian sports — go away!” she said, according to an English translation of the video.
Sobchak didn’t mention her most important likely opponent in the election, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who on November 9 continued to deny any state involvement in the doping scandal and said the United States was using the matter to try to tarnish his presidency.
“In response to our alleged interference in their election, they want to create problems for the election of the president of Russia,” said Putin, who is widely expected to run in and win the election though he has not as yet announced his candidacy.
“Russia never had and, I hope, will never have a system of state doping of which we are being accused,” Putin said.