U.S. Investigation Reportedly Begins Into Russian Athletics Doping Scandal
If U.S. banks or competitions were affected by the scandal, Russian leaders could face criminal charges in the U.S.
The United States is reportedly investigating whether Russian athletes or officials violated any U.S. laws amid revelations of a long-running doping scandal.
Federal prosecutors could seek conspiracy or fraud charges against Russians with ties to the scandal, the New York Times reported. Specifically, the FBI is looking into whether U.S. banks were used to facilitate doping practices, and if athletes using performance-enhancing drugs competed in the U.S., ABC News reported.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of New York said he could not comment on any potential investigation.
In November, the World Anti-Doping Agency recommended Russia be banned from international competition because of "widespread doping." The report also suggested the Russian government was aware of and approved the practices. Russia later accepted a suspension from international competition.
In March, one International Association of Athletics Federations official said Russia still had a long way to go to overcome a "culture" of doping. A New York Times report earlier this month detailed a state-run doping program that included dozens of athletes who competed at the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi.
In response, the Russian Ministry of Sport said in a statement it acknowledged a doping problem — though it also questioned the validity of the Times report.
"We believe we have already proved Russia's commitment to fight doping by inviting international experts recommended by [the World Anti-Doping Agency] to all key positions responsible for doping control and this guarantees independence and transparency of procedures," the statement said. "We have nothing to hide."
Earlier this week, a board meeting of the World Anti-Doping Agency heard a status update on Russian testing that brought up some "limitations" of the program.
“There is clearly still a long road ahead for [the Russian Anti-Doping Agency]; and, this update indicates that much work needs to be done; however, now that [the World Anti-Doping Agency] has two independent experts in place, I feel much more confident that the issues we are currently facing will be addressed without delay,” president Sir Craig Reedie said.
On Tuesday, the World Anti-Doping Agency announced its plans to investigate Russian doping in Sochi. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is providing samples from athletes at the games — which have been kept in storage — and has also asked Russian Olympics officials to cooperate.
The IOC also announced on Tuesday it had retested 454 doping samples from the 2008 Beijing games. Based on results, proceedings have begun that could ban 31 athletes from 12 countries from Rio.
International athletics officials are expected to decide in June if Russia's track and field team will be eligible for the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.