(Reuters) - The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Thursday its investigation into 298 Russian athletes targeted in a doping probe has been completed and the findings passed onto international federations for further action.
Code named "Operation LIMS", the probe conducted by WADA's Intelligence and Investigations committee examined institutionalised doping in Russia using data mined from the Moscow laboratory at the heart of the scandal.
The investigation, which took a year to complete, was complicated because Russian officials at first refused WADA investigators access to material in the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) and were later found guilty of tampering with that data.
As a result of the tampering, Russia was declared non-compliant late last year and handed a four-year ban.
Russia is in the process of appealing against the ban on its athletes competing at major international sporting events under their flag as punishment for that alteration of laboratory data.
Of the 298 cases handed over 153 were unaffected by the alleged manipulation, WADA said.
Investigation packages of all 298 cases have now been turned over to 28 Anti-Doping Organisations (ADOs), including 27 International Federations (IFs) and one major event organisation who have to decide in each case whether to bring it forward.
WADA said it will discuss the facts with each ADO and will review the decisions rendered by the ADOs and appeal, if appropriate, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
"This has been the most complex enquiry in anti-doping history and WADA’s investigations team has been doing an outstanding job," WADA president Witold Banka said in a statement.
"It has been a huge undertaking, involving thousands of samples, 24 terabytes of data, hundreds of athletes across 28 organisations, and it is delivering real results.
"The Russian doping crisis has dominated WADA’s time and resources over the past five years and the Agency’s investigations team has been on the frontline," Banka added.
"This is not the end of the road. There is still more reanalysis of the samples retrieved from the former Moscow Laboratory that is ongoing."
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond)