Anton Shipulin is one of the Russian biathletes reportedly under investigation in Austria ©Getty Images

An Austrian police investigation into Russian biathletes and officials is considered part of the ongoing probe into the International Biathlon Union (IBU).

Five Russian biathletes and five team officials are currently under investigation for anti-doping rule violations connected to last year's World Championships in Hochfilzen.

Austrian authorities revealed the inquiries were "based on fraud in connection with doping", as well as alleged "use of prohibited substances and/or methods for the purpose of doping" by the five team members.

Sochi 2014 Olympic gold medallists Anton Shipulin - among the Russian competitors banned before Pyeongchang 2018 - and Alexey Volkov, as well as Olympic bronze medallist Evgeny Garanichev, World Championships bronze medallist Alexander Loginov and multiple European champion Irina Starykh are reportedly the athletes under investigation.

Former head coach of the Russian national team Alexander Kasperovich and doctors and massage therapists Artyom Kryntsilov, Alexander Selyavkin, Evgeny Shutov and Dmitry Topychkanov are also reportedly part of the probe.

The police investigation comes as doping is a criminal offence in Austria.

"The Russian Biathlon Union officially confirms that on December 12, representatives of the Austrian Police arrived at the location of the national team that arrived in Austria to speak at the World Cup. Police representatives interviewed a number of Russian athletes and specialists," a statement from the Russian Biathlon Union (RBU) statement.

"The questions concerned possible anti-doping rule violations committed during the 2017 World Cup, which was held in Hochfilzen.

"The President of the Russian Biathlon Union has already contacted the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Austria. 

"Employees and specialists of the Embassy provide all necessary assistance to athletes and specialists of the national team.

"The leadership of the Biathlon Union is closely monitoring the situation and is in constant contact with the national team coaching staff. 

"[RBU President] Vladimir Drachev will arrive at the location of the team for personal control of the situation and the progress of the proceedings.

"The Russian national biathlon team will continue to compete at the World Cup, IBU Cup and other international tournaments."

The Austrian police action comes as part of an ongoing probe into the IBU ©Getty Images
The Austrian police action comes as part of an ongoing probe into the IBU ©Getty Images

The action is considered a continuation of the wider investigation taking place into the IBU, which began in April.

Austrian prosecutors began an investigation into possible doping, fraud and corruption, with the alleged wrongdoing claimed to have covered a period from 2012 until the 2017 World Championships in the Austrian resort of Hochfilzen.

The investigation saw the IBU's headquarters raided in April based on a tip-off by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The case led to then IBU President Anders Besseberg and secretary general Nicole Resch stepping down from their positions.

Both officials are suspected of accepting bribes of up to $300,000 (£211,000/€243,000) and other benefits in return for a favourable stance towards Russia - but deny wrongdoing.

It is anticipated that a police report will be published next month.

A separate external review of the allegations against Anders Besseberg and Nicole Resch, former IBU President and secretary general respectively, will also be carried out by English lawyer Jonathan Taylor.

The external review was commissioned by the IBU’s new leadership last month.

Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) director general Yury Ganus has warned that the action of the Austrian police must be based upon “concrete information”.

He expressed concern over the potentially implications for the Russian Biathlon Union, which is only a provisional member of the IBU having been suspended due to the doping crisis. 

"We are taking the situation seriously, police officers wouldn’t be involved without reason," he said, according to Russian broadcaster RT.

"I do hope that the results of their investigation will not be as negative as everyone expects them to be.

"But judging by previous experience connected with the IBU, I may say that police officers do not come to the scene without a serious reason.

"Their actions are driven by concrete information they have.

"Let’s wait and see what will happen next.

"I hope that the Russian Biathlon Union will not share the same destiny as the Russian Athletics Federation."

RUSADA director general Yury Ganus admitted the police investigation must have followed
RUSADA director general Yury Ganus admitted the police investigation must have followed "concrete information" ©Getty Images

A contrasting opinion was offered by the Russian Foreign Ministry, with their spokesperson Maria Zakharova claiming the Austrian police had created a "destabilising situation".

"During the night there was somewhat wild information from Austria detailing that representatives of the Austrian police visited the Russian training camp to hand over notifications regarding doping accusations against some of our leading athletes," Zakharova was quoted as saying by RT.

"I really don’t understand what’s going on in Europe and what traditions have started to emerge there to make a night raid on the Russian camp on the eve of important sports competitions.

"They created a strange, destabilising and depressing situation of threats while trying to explain something and hand over some notifications."

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov claimed it was all a "misunderstanding". 

"The situation is under the control of the Ministry of Sport of Russia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, the Russian Embassy in Austria,” Kolobkov told Russia's official state news agency TASS

"Today we have to meet with our lawyers, the prosecutor, the staff of the Russian Embassy. 

"The Austrian Prosecutor’s Office reported that there are no restrictions. 

"I’m sure all these misunderstandings should be sorted out."

The World Cup has continued in Austria, with the Russian athletes free to take part.