By Duncan Mackay
March 3 - Confusion surrounds the reported resignation of Leonid Tyagachev (pictured) as the President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) following the poor showing of the country's team at the Games in Vancouver, which have raised fears that they will be embarrassed when Sochi hosts them in 2014.
Tyagachev has "signed his resignation declaration," the spokesman for the ROC, Gennady Shvets, told the Interfax news agency.
He said: "I do not know the precise motivation but in any case it is likely that this is linked to the performance of the Russian team in Vancouver."
But Tyagachyov's personal spokeswoman Darya Chervonenko later denied the statement as "premature."
Shvets "was too fast to send his boss into retirement," Chervonenko told Itar-Tass.
Shvets later said: "I was just asked to comment on [Tyagachyov's] resignation as if it was already a fact, but I never made such a statement."
The Kremlin also refused to comment, although Tyagachyov has been holding talks with Russian Government officials, during which he reportedly said he would resign.
Spokesman Alexei Pavlov said he could not say anything officially.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had on Monday called for officials in charge of preparing the team for Vancouver to resign after the country suffered its worst-ever performance in Vancouver.
Russia finished 11th in the Games' medal table, clinching only three gold medals and 15 overall.
Tyagachev's resignation was a "direct reaction to the President's words," Shvets said.
It had been claimed at one stage that Tyagachev was in a Moscow hospital suffering from pneumonia, although he later answered his mobile telephone to reporters before asking them to call back.
When they did a woman claiming to be his wife answered and claimed he was too ill to talk.
She said: "He cannot speak - he is coughing up."
Tyagachev began his career as an alpine skier and coach of the Soviet Union's team.
He served as Sport and Tourism Minister in the 1990s before joining the ROC, being elected President in 2001.
Tyagachev played a pivotal role in Sochi's successful bid to host the 2014 Olympics, the first time Russia will have staged the Games since the boycotted-Moscow Games in 1980.
Tyagachev has long been seen as an ally of Putin and has given him ski lessons.
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko (pictured) has so far brushed off calls to resign, despite the popular Tvoi Den tabloid running a frontpage headline calling him to "Mutkoff".
Tyagachev's alleged resignation, though, has placed extra pressure on Mutko, led by Sergei Mironov, the Speaker of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian Parliament.
He said: "Tyagachyev is a fine man.
"He did the only morally right thing for him.
"Now Sports Minister Mutko must follow suit."
The only other official to have offered their resignation so far is Vladimir Loginov, the President of the Russian Cross Country Skiing Federation and Tyagachev's deputy at the ROC.
He said: "If this solves the problem, I will leave my post in three minutes.
"But will the whole country then immediately win?"
Meanwhile, Russia’s Accounting Chamber has begun examining the recent spending of the country’s Olympic fund.
The Chamber’s head, Sergey Stepashin, explained that his office’s task is to find out how efficiently the money was spent by the sports federations.
He said: "We are not going to count Olympic medals - [the] Vancouver Olympics did that for us."
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
February 2010: Russian Sports Minister offers to quit after Olympic failure
February 2010: Russian President demands resignation of Olympic coaches
February 2010: Putin confident Russia will turn things round for Sochi 2014
February 2010: Russian President set to demand answers over team's poor performance
February 2010: Putin tells Plushenko that he is worth gold as Russian anger grows