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Russia Seeks Fresh Start After Olympic Chief's Resignation

  • Henry Ridgwell

Following Wednesday's resignation of the head of Russia's Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov, analysts say Russia is seeking to move on from the doping scandal that saw dozens of its athletes banned from this summer's Rio Olympics. But Moscow will struggle to regain the full trust of the global sporting community.

Zhukov is one of the most powerful men in the tainted world of Russian sport and is also a key political ally of President Vladimir Putin, who said Wednesday that his friend wanted to concentrate on his role as first deputy speaker in the Russian parliament.

Zhukov's move "is without doubt the right thing," Putin said. "Alexander Zhukov has done a lot for sport, and, I hope, will do more still."

Putin did not make any connection between Zhukov's departure and the doping scandal that saw dozens of their nation's Olympic athletes and the entire Russian Paralympic team banned from this summer's games in Rio de Janeiro.

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin poses for a picture with Russian athletes who won the cross-country skiing open relay at the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympic Games, March 15, 2014.

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin poses for a picture with Russian athletes who won the cross-country skiing open relay at the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympic Games, March 15, 2014.

'Bond of trust' broken

But Olympic historian Philip Barker said Russia was likely trying to make a fresh start.

"It's very hard for the Russians now," he said, "because that bond of trust has actually been broken quite significantly."

Zhukov was chairman of the Organizing Committee for the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. In its July report that sent shock waves across the sporting community, the World Anti-Doping Agency concluded that Russia had run a state-sponsored doping program, even smuggling out positive samples from a Sochi laboratory through a hole drilled in a wall and then replacing them with clean samples.

It will take more than a new face to restore Russia's sporting image, Barker said.

"There are a few remedies that they could take," he said, "and one of them would probably not come easy to them: to throw open their laboratories to international inspectors and to not put any pressure on them. Whistle-blowers and people who have tried to say something have been subject to considerable pressure and even intimidation at times."

Russia has accepted there were shortcomings in its anti-doping operations but says it has been unfairly singled out for political reasons.

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