Austrian authorities announced on Thursday that an investigation has been opened into the alleged doping of Russian biathlon athletes at the World Championships held last year in the landlocked country.
In a statement, Austria's prosecutor's office said five Russian athletes were being investigated for "serious deception in connection with doping".
Five support staff are also targeted by the investigation for the "use of forbidden substances or methods for the purpose of doping".
The investigation relates to the World Championship competition held last year in Hochfilzen, in western Austria.
Members of the team including athletes and specialists — currently in Hochfilzen ahead of this weekend's World Cup event there — were questioned by Austrian police on Wednesday, the Russian Biathlon Federation confirmed to AFP.
Who's under investigation?
Some athletes took to social media to reveal that they were being investigated including Evgeniy Garanichev (pictured, above), who finished 10th in last year's men's sprint event.
Garanichev posted a list of names on Instagram and wrote: "I am on the list of people suspected of breaking anti-doping rules!! What a scandal!!! We are clean..."
Teammate Aleksandr Loginov, who made it onto two podiums at last week's World Cup event in Pokljuka, also took to Instagram to claim his innocence.
"Yesterday, I — and others — were accused of some sort of plot to do with blood transfusions," he wrote.
"Apparently, in order for a Russian athlete to compete, it is no longer enough to pass doping tests," he added.
Loginov was suspended from competition for two years between 2014 and 2016 after re-testing of a 2013 sample showed he'd been using EPO, a banned substance.
The Russian embassy in Vienna said it had asked the Austrian Interior Ministry for information.
"The embassy, in consultation with the Russian Ministry of Sport and the Biathlon Federation, has contacted trusted lawyers to clarify the situation with the competent authorities in Austria," Bulat Khaydarov, the embassy's spokesman, said on Twitter.
Russian Foreign Minstry spokeswoman Maria Zacharova denounced the investigation as "absurd" during a briefing to reporters on Thursday and said the timing would create "a strange, oppressive and destabilising atmosphere for athletes" ahead of this weekend's competition.
The International Biathlon Union said in a statement that it "is aware of the action taken by the Austrian state authorities in the Russian National Biathlon Team's accommodation in Hochfilzen."