Russia's Mutko steps down as head of World Cup organizing committee

FILE PHOTO: Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko speaks during a news conference after the Russian Football Union's executive committee meeting in Moscow, Russia December 25, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, who was banned for life from the Olympics this month, on Wednesday stepped down from his post as head of Russia’s World Cup Local Organising Committee, Russia’s RIA agency quoted him as saying.

Alexei Sorokin, the committee’s chief executive, will take on Mutko’s responsibilities, another agency, TASS, cited Mutko as saying.

“He (Sorokin) will interact with FIFA. I will coordinate the work on the government side,” Mutko told TASS.

Russia is hosting next year’s soccer World Cup in 11 cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi.

But Mutko, a former sports minister, has been embroiled in a scandal concerning alleged doping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.

The International Olympic Committee said this month it was banning Russia from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics after finding evidence of “unprecedented systematic manipulation” of doping procedures.

Mutko says there was no state-backed doping program.

Mutko said earlier this week that he was temporarily stepping down from his role as head of the country’s Football Union.

Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya; Editing by John Stonestreet and Hugh Lawson