MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko downplayed on Tuesday the issue of doping among his country’s soccer players, saying reports on the use of performance-enhancing drugs were an attempt to discredit Russia.
The comments came three days before Russia hosts the draw for next year’s World Cup and after Russian athletes who competed at the 2014 Sochi Olympics were stripped of their medals and banned for life from the Games over doping.
A World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report last year into alleged state-backed doping in the country listed soccer as one of the sports in which drug tests were allegedly covered up.
Mutko described reports of doping among Russian soccer players as “stupidity”.
“If we play like this while doped, what would it be like without it?” R-Sport news agency quoted Mutko as saying.
Russia are the lowest-ranked team in the World Cup finals and have not made it past the group stage in their three appearances in the tournament since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) this month voided the results of 19 Russian athletes who competed at the Sochi Games and banned them for life from the Olympics over doping violations.
The decisions came as a result of an investigation into allegations of widespread doping among Russians and sample- tampering by laboratory and security officials at the Sochi Games.
Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, editing by ed Osmond