Russia's sports minister loses government post amid doping saga

2 min

Moscow (AFP)

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has replaced sports minister Pavel Kolobkov and his predecessor from his cabinet Tuesday following a doping scandal that has seen the country banned from this summer's Olympics.

Kolobkov has been replaced by Oleg Matytsin, a sports administrator who heads a student sporting federation, in the new government under Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

Kolobkov's predecessor Vitaly Mutko, who was sports minister between 2008 and 2016 and was implicated in allegations of a state-sponsored doping conspiracy during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, also lost his seat of deputy prime minister in the new cabinet.

Kolobkov, a retired fencer, joined the sports ministry in 2012 as deputy minister, and was promoted to replace Mutko in 2016.

In recent months, he has defended Russia amid accusations by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) of falsifying laboratory doping data, and was criticised by the country's top athletes for dragging his feet on reforms and putting their careers on the line.

He has publicly sparred with Russia's anti-doping chief Yury Ganus, who openly accused officials of tampering with data and called Russia's ban a tragedy.

Mutko, who has gained a reputation of an unsinkable official, has held on to a cabinet seat despite being banned for life from the Olympic Games in 2017.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport last year overturned the decision, saying the International Olympic Committee's ban only targeted athletes, coaches or official delegation members.

It is not clear what his next public post could be.

There has been no official explanation of the sackings, and Putin has appointed another official implicated by the IOC in the doping saga, Dmitry Chernyshenko, into the cabinet as a deputy prime minister.

Chernyshenko was the head of the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee and in 2017 was withdrawn from the coordination commission for Beijing 2022 in an IOC decision sanctioning Russia's manipulation of anti-doping rules.