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Putin says ‘impossible’ to fire Deputy PM Mutko over doping

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin says it would be “impossible” to fire Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko after he was accused of covering up doping by Russian athletes.

Mutko was Russia’s sports minister during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, where Russia allegedly operated a widespread doping program, including switching tainted samples for clean ones at the Olympic drug-testing laboratory. Russia rejects any suggestion its government ever covered up for dopers.

Mutko is now deputy prime minister with a brief to oversee construction projects.

Russia rejects the allegations, and Putin implied keeping Mutko in the government was an issue of loyalty because “we know the attacks made against him in connection with the doping scandal.”

Mutko was banned from the Olympics for life in December after an International Olympic Committee ruled his ministry was responsible for failing to stop doping abuses.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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