• Vitaly Mutko is alleged to have told Darya Pishchalnikova to retract evidence
  • Athlete secretly submitted evidence in 2012 about state-sponsored doping 
  • Mutko’s credibility is in doubt; he is currently Russia’s deputy prime minister 
  • He is also currently standing for re-election to all-powerful FIFA council 
  • Expert with inside knowledge is scathing at prospect of Mutko being cleared

The man who led Russia’s triumphant 2018 World Cup bid and a key ally of Vladimir Putin is facing a new scandal over claims he silenced a drugs whistleblower.

Multiple sources have alleged to The Mail on Sunday that Vitaly Mutko, the president of Russia’s FA, ordered Darya Pishchalnikova in 2013 to retract evidence she had secretly submitted in 2012 to world sporting bodies about state-sponsored doping.

The incendiary claim casts fresh doubt on the credibility of Mutko, Russia’s former sports minister, who is now deputy prime minister.

Mutko is standing for re-election to the all-powerful FIFA council, a role for which he must pass an integrity test. Mutko is apparently on the verge of passing that test even though he has already been cited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for his alleged role in Russian doping.

The result of the vetting process, by FIFA’s review committee, will be announced by European football body UEFA because Mutko is one of their candidates for the FIFA role.

His case has been examined by the panel’s chairman Miguel Poiares Maduro, a former Portuguese government minister, his deputy Mukul Mudgal of India and Peru’s Felipe Cantuarias. Are this three bought by Mutko to pass the test?

On Saturday night, 18.02.17, a senior governance expert with inside knowledge of the FIFA administration was scathing at the prospect of Mutko being cleared.

‘Other people have failed integrity tests for far less than what Mutko is accused of,’ he said. ‘It seems pretty clear he was part of the [doping] system and if you are under serious suspicion, that needs to be seriously vetted. The fact is FIFA’s governance system has imploded. It’s one big sham.’

The notion that Mutko is innocent of doping will be challenged by these new allegations he effectively silenced Pishchalnikova.

Russia has always vehemently denied running a state-sponsored doping programme, first exposed by DailyMail Online in July 2013 when they named lab boss Grigory Rodchenkov as central to the plot. The MoS revealed at the time that senior coaches were involved in doping and cover-ups across multiple sports.

Pishchalnikova, a discus thrower, won a silver medal at London 2012 but was later told she had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs for the second time in her career. She responded by writing to WADA and the governing body of athletics, the IAAF, in late 2012. Her letter, seen by The MoS, named Russia’s athletics federation president Valentin Balakhnichev, coaches Valentin Maslakov and Alexei Melnikov and Rodchenkov among those involved in a doping scam.

Three separate sources with knowledge of events have told The MoS that Pishchalnikova was ordered to meet Mutko in early 2013. WADA had sent her letters to Russia’s authorities believing they would sort out the problem.

Two sources are whistleblowers involved in DailyMail Online newspaper’s original exposé — one a coach, the other a lawyer. Another is close to the athlete. Separately, former Russian anti-doping official and whistleblower Vitaly Stepanov has told The MoS his own sources recounted the same version of events.

‘That’s the story I heard,’ Stepanov said, adding that Pishchalnikova now avoids any mention inside Russia about related issues. ‘It sounds like she is enjoying her life,’ Stepanov says. ‘She doesn’t talk about doping.’

It is alleged Mutko told Pishchalnikova that ‘the president’ [Putin] needed the Moscow anti-doping lab ‘for the Olympics’ and her testimony to WADA should be withdrawn. Sources allege Pishchalnikova initially declined to do as requested, but agreed after being told she faced a life ban if she failed to help Mutko, and a 10-year ban if she helped. Pishchalnikova ended up with a 10-year ban.

She did not respond to a request for comment about Mutko’s role. It is believed she feels she has been a victim of the system once already and sees no benefit in commenting.

Her family’s view is perhaps reflected by the fact that Pishchalnikova’s mother, Tatiana, last year signed an online petition calling for Mutko to be sacked when he was sports minister.

It read: ‘Mutko’s work as a minister compromises Russian sport, puts children and teenagers off sports and causes huge damage to the image of our country in the world.

The petition makes reference to the fact that independent reports have named Mutko as knowledgeable about and complicit in doping.

The MoS sent detailed questions to both Russia’s Ministry of Sport — where Mutko was in charge in 2013 — and to his current office of Mutko as deputy PM.

Sports Ministry spokeswoman Lyudmila Derevyanko said in a statement: ‘All your questions concern Vitaly Leontiyevich Mutko. We have nothing to say about this, so we have passed them to his office in the government.’

An official at Mutko’s office said by telephone: ‘No one can dictate to the deputy prime minister when he should answer something‘, and then hung up.

Stepanov, who worked for years at Russia’s anti-doping agency (RUSADA) before revealing the truth and fleeing the country for his own safety, is certain Mutko played a key role in the doping conspiracy.

He was minister [of sport] at the time and he couldn’t stay in his position if [Russia’s poor performance at the 2010 Winter Olympics in] Vancouver happened again.

‘During my time at RUSADA I could see people loyal to him put into important positions.

‘The guy was clearly setting us his own agenda. The guy must be banned from sports for life. There is no discussion. He destroys Olympic values.

‘This happens not only in Russia. That’s how he justifies it. “I’m not the only one“.’
Source: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook