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Russia bids to host European Games, despite backdrop of doping scandals

MOSCOW -- Russia is bidding to host the 2023 edition of the European Games despite a backdrop of years of doping scandals.

Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozdnyakov is working with regional officials on the Kazan bid and said late Tuesday the city has "unique sports infrastructure at both the Russian and international level."

Kazan hosted the University Games in 2013, the world swimming championships two years later, and World Cup soccer games last year. World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren later alleged the University Games were used as a "trial run" for the vast doping cover-up when Russia hosted the Winter Olympics at Sochi in 2014.

McLaren alleged Russia led the medal table for the University Games in part thanks to "a defense for the Russian athletes" -- cover-up orders from the Sports Ministry which led to eight Russian gold medalists having failed drug tests falsely reported as if they were clean.

Russian President Vladimir Putin listed Kazan alongside Sochi and St. Petersburg as a potential future host of the Summer Olympics in a 2017 interview with Olympic historian David Miller. Russia last hosted the summer Games in Moscow in 1980.

If Kazan is successful, it would be the third European Games in a post-Soviet country after the inaugural event in Azerbaijan in 2015 and this year's edition in Belarus. The 2019 games were originally meant to be held in the Netherlands but the hosts dropped out in 2015, saying the event cost too much.

Despite launching in 2015 with 20 sports and a lavish opening ceremony, the European Games struggled to attract big-name athletes. Federations in sports such as track and field, swimming and cycling have guarded their own long-running European championships and joined together to stage them simultaneously in Glasgow and Berlin last year, creating a rival to the European Games format.