(FILES)-- A file photo taken on July 20, 2015 shows FIFA president Sepp Blatter gesturing during a press conference at the football world body's headquarters in Zurich. A FIFA appeal committee on November 18, 2015 rejected a bid by long-time president Sepp Blatter and UEFA chief Michel Platini to overturn their 90-day suspensions while Swiss police pursue a criminal investigation. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI
(FILES)-- A file photo taken on July 20, 2015 shows FIFA president Sepp Blatter gesturing during a press conference at the football world body's headquarters in Zurich. A FIFA appeal committee on November 18, 2015 rejected a bid by long-time president Sepp Blatter and UEFA chief Michel Platini to overturn their 90-day suspensions while Swiss police pursue a criminal investigation. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI

Assures Russia’s cooperation in eradicating doping.

Moscow : President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that suspended FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who is under investigation for alleged corruption over his management of the world footballing body, should be given the Nobel Peace Prize. “That is someone who should be given the Nobel Peace Prize,” Putin said of the FIFA boss who on Thursday appeared before the body’s ethics committee to answer corruption allegations. “His contribution to the global humanitarian sphere is colossal,” the Russian leader said, suggesting that Western “machinations” were behind the ongoing inquiry.

Blatter is under criminal investigation in Switzerland over a two million Swiss francs ($2 million/1.8 million euros) payment made to vice president Michel Platini in 2011 for work carried out about a decade earlier. Both Blatter and Platini are serving a 90-day ban from all football-related activities in connection with the investigation, with the football governing body to vote for a new head on February 26. Moscow has publicly supported the embattled outgoing FIFA head, with Putin praising Blatter’s “experience, professionalism and high level of authority” earlier this year. The Russian president said Thursday there were Western “machinations” behind the inquiry into FIFA corruption, launched in parallel to a US corruption investigation in which seven FIFA officials were detained in Zurich in May.

The Kremlin said at the time that the arrests were a bid to influence the re-election of Blatter, who alleged in October that a backroom deal saw Russia scoop the 2018 World Cup. “No country can or has the right to extend its jurisdiction to other states, even more so to international organisation,” Putin said, referring to FIFA. Putin on Thursday insisted that Russia had not colluded to win the right to host the tournament, saying that Moscow’s bid had been “absolutely fair.” Putin pledged that Russia would cooperate with international officials to eradicate the ‘poison’ of doping, but said it was wrong to suspend athletes who have not been accused of cheating. Putin suggested the IAAF’s blanket suspension of Russia’s entire track and field team was unfair because it penalised athletes for the cheating of others.

Russia’s track and field federation was suspended by the IAAF after a World Anti-Doping Agency panel accused the country of operating a widespread, state-sponsored doping program and covering up positive tests. The penalty could keep Russia’s track and field athletes out of next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.“If someone is doping, they should definitely be punished in the proper way because it destroys the idea of fair competition,” Putin said in his annual news conference. “Those who are guilty, the coach, the organiser, the athlete, they should be held responsible. Those who have nothing to do with it should not answer for those who are violating something. It’s not fair and it’s not right.”

Putin promised to make sure that Russian officials work with international bodies to fight doping, which he described as a “poison for people.” “Russia must and will be open for a joint fight on doping,” he said in televised remarks. “I will order officials on all levels to cooperate openly with international bodies, not cover up anything. It’s in our interests.” Putin also reacted to the corruption scandals at FIFA which are overshadowing Russia’s preparations to host the World Cup in 2018.

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