By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Tom Balmforth
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Austrian authorities are investigating five officials and five athletes from Russia’s biathlon team over possible doping-related offences during the 2017 World Championship, the International Biathlon Union (IBU) said on Thursday.
It said the accused had been handed information about proceedings under Austrian criminal law.
The officials are being investigated for the alleged “use of prohibited substances and/or methods for the purpose of doping,” the IBU said.
“(Austria) ..is also conducting an investigation against five Russian biathlon athletes based on fraud in connection with doping.”
The 2017 championship took place in the Alpine resort of Hochfilzen.
Austrian police on Wednesday interviewed members of the Russian biathlon team currently in Austria for the latest event in the Biathlon World Cup series, Russia’s Biathlon Union (RBU) said.
Yuri Ganus, director of Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA, said he was not aware of the exact reasons for the investigation. “We are eagerly waiting for the results of the probe,” he told reporters in Moscow.
The RBU said before the investigation was publicly confirmed that Russia’s biathlon team would continue to race in the World Cup series, the IBU Cup and other international competitions.
Last month, the IBU said four Russian athletes had been charged with anti-doping violations based on samples collected from 2012-15, after it analysed RUSADA laboratory data in Moscow.
Russia was banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from this year’s Pyeongchang Winter Games as punishment for alleged state-sponsored doping across many sports, including biathlon. Moscow has denied the allegations.
A selection of Russian athletes with no history of doping, including four biathletes, were allowed to compete as neutrals on IOC invites.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Additional reporting Andrey Ostroukh and Karolos Grohmann; Editing by John O’Brien and John Stonestreet)