Voluntary vaccination for Russian athletes going to Olympics, says sports minister

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FILE PHOTO: Russian Sports Minister Matytsin attends a conference held to appoint the new president of Russia's Athletics Federation in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian athletes going to this summer's Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be vaccinated against COVID-19 on a voluntary basis, Russian news agencies cited Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin as saying on Wednesday.

The International Olympic Committee has said getting the vaccine is "encouraged" but not compulsory for athletes.

"A decision was taken about the voluntary vaccination of athletes of the Russian national team," news agencies cited Matytsin as saying.

"Specialists from the FMBA (Federal Medical-Biological Agency) are working together with federations. For us this situation is the main challenge before the Games."

Athletes from Russia will compete under the acronym ROC without their flag and anthem at the Games as part of sanctions for several doping scandals, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said last month.

The Tokyo Games, which were pushed back by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, are scheduled to begin on July 23.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)