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US Investigating Claims of State-sponsored Doping in Russia

  • VOA News

FILE - A member of security guards a Russian Olympic committee building in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015.

FILE - A member of security guards a Russian Olympic committee building in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015.

The United States has opened an investigation into claims that dozens of Russian athletes took part in a state-sponsored doping program, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Athletes, Russian government officials, anti-doping authorities, and others who may have benefited from a doping scheme are being probed by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York, The Times reported.

The U.S. does not normally launch investigations into sports doping, but can, particularly when the alleged offenses involve competitions in the United States or involve accounts in U.S. banks. Prosecutors are also allowed to present cases against foreigners living abroad if they are able to prove that there is some connection to the U.S.

According to two sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity as they are not allowed to discuss the case publicly, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, former head of Russia's antidoping laboratory, is among the Russian officials being investigated. He was accused of playing a key role in the state-sponsored doping program outlined in a report released by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) last November. He has since admitted to swapping urine samples sent for testing at the direction of the Russian government. He has since fled Russia and now lives in the United States.

A number of other testimonies and interviews have surfaced since that report, including a CBS news ("60 Minutes") special on a whistleblower who claims to have sent proof of the scheme to WADA.

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko has admitted that coaches, athletes, and officials made "serious mistakes" in a column for British newspaper The Sunday Times, but did not provide any further details or link the problem to the government.

Russia awaits a decision on June 17th on whether its athletics federation has reformed its program enough to be allowed to participate in the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Crackdowns on doping and drug cheats in the Olympic games have drastically increased this year. The International Olympic Commission (IOC) announced Tuesday that 31 athletes who were found to have tested positive for drug use in the 2008 Beijing games may be banned from Rio de Janeiro this summer. The IOC has also said it has called on the WADA to launch a "fully fledged investigation" into allegations that drug testing at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was subverted by Russian officials.