The head of Russia’s Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov, is stepping down, in the biggest change at the top of Russian sport since a doping scandal led to the country’s track-and-field athletes being excluded from the Rio Games.
President Vladimir Putin said Zhukov had told him he wanted to leave the role so he could concentrate on his other job as first deputy speaker in the lower house of parliament.
Zhukov was given the tough task of trying to persuade the International Olympic Committee not to ban Russia entirely from the Rio Games despite damning reports from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that uncovered widespread state-sponsored cheating. His low-key, behind-the-scenes style was in contrast to the forceful approach of Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who is well known for emotional outbursts.
Russia was eventually allowed to send athletes in most sports other than track and field, but was banned from the subsequent Paralympics.
Whoever replaces Zhukov will play a key role in trying to clean up Russia’s reputation and heal relations with the wider Olympic movement – an important priority for a country that sees sporting success as a symbol of its power and world standing.