January 21, 2020 / 6:20 PM / a month ago

Russia names new sports minister in government reshuffle

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Oleg Matytsin, the president of the International University Sports Federation (FISU), was named Russia’s new sports minister in a government reshuffle on Tuesday as the country finds itself embroiled in a doping scandal that has seen it in barred from this year’s Olympics.

FILE PHOTO: International University Sports Federation (FISU) President Oleg Matytsin speaks at the opening ceremony for the 29th Winter Universiade at the Platinum Arena in Krasnoyarsk, Russia March 2, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/Pool

Matytsin, who has served as FISU president since 2015, replaces former Olympic fencer Pavel Kolobkov to head a ministry with the daunting task of improving Russia’s image on the global sports stage.

The 55-year-old, who also serves on the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Olympic education commission, will also be at the heart of Russia’s efforts to fight a four-year ban from top international sporting events that Moscow has decried as too harsh.

Matytsin told RIA news agency he was not planning to relinquish his position at FISU. A spokesperson for FISU did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) last month barred Russians from competing under their flag at top international sporting events, including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 soccer World Cup, for a four-year period after it found that Moscow had provided it with doctored laboratory data.

Russia’s appeal against the sanctions, which also bar it from hosting or bidding for a string of major sporting events, will be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Russia’s doping woes have snowballed since a 2015 WADA report detailing state-sponsored doping in Russian athletics. Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA and the country’s athletics federation were suspended in the wake of the scandal.

Russia was also banned by the IOC from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea as punishment for a state-sponsored doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The IOC, however, chose not to ban all Russian athletes from the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro after a WADA-commissioned report revealed a state-backed doping programme across many sports.

Russia has denied the existence of state-sponsored doping in the country but has acknowledged shortcomings in its enforcement of anti-doping regulations.

A string of Sports Ministry officials were suspended in 2016 in the aftermath of the allegations.

Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; editing by Nick Macfie

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