Russia's Mutko says his Olympic ban 'secondary' to country's


Moscow (AFP)

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko on Thursday said his life ban from the Olympic Games was "secondary" to those faced by the country's athletes in the wake of this week's IOC ruling.

The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea over a state-orchestrated doping programme, saying clean Russian athletes would be allowed to compete under the Olympic flag.

"This is all a secondary problem, this isn't about me now," Mutko told the Russian news agency R-Sport in response to the IOC's sanctions against him in the ruling.

"I have my own views about all this...but the main guys are the athletes," he said.

"Their problems concern me much more than my ban from attending the Olympic Games."

Mutko, whom the IOC found was involved in a state-backed doping programme, also heads Russia's 2018 World Cup organising committee.

When the then sports minister was barred from the 2016 Rio Olympics over doping charges, he not only survived, but was promoted to deputy prime minister.

The 58-year-old Mutko, known for contradictory statements and diatribes against critics of Russian sport, has insisted in the past that Russia will reform its scandal-ridden anti-doping system but has denied state complicity in doping cover-ups.

Recently he dismissed doping allegations as an attempt to create an image of an "axis of evil" against his country.