The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) today confirmed a five-person team had retrieved more than 2,200 samples from the infamous Moscow Laboratory and that the team was on its way to an accredited laboratory outside Russia.
Since WADA's retrieval in January of the analytical data generated by Moscow Laboratory, the body's Intelligence and Investigations (I&I) department has been working to remove all relevant samples.
All the samples targeted by WADA I&I in advance of its mission were successfully extracted, it is claimed.
They were split into A and B samples and contained within more than 4,500 collection bottles.
"WADA Intelligence and Investigations is pleased to be continuing to make progress in this complex and difficult case," said WADA director of I&I Gunter Younger, who is leading the process.
"Extracting the required samples from the laboratory is another step forward.
"These samples will be used to strengthen cases against those who may have cheated and may exonerate athletes who have not committed an anti-doping rule violation.
"In removing the bottles, as a precaution we decided to take any and all samples that corresponded to data in the Laboratory Information Management System database that was even remotely anomalous, even where an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) was not suspected.
"We can therefore proceed to the next phase and support the various International Federations (IFs) and other anti-doping organisations to bring cases forward."
In parallel, WADA claims the authentication process of the Moscow data is close to completion.
In early May, a progress report from that process will be sent to the independent Compliance Review Committee, which has received updates from WADA I&I every two weeks since the data was extracted in January.
An update will be presented at the next meetings of WADA’s Executive Committee and Foundation Board on May 15 and 16, respectively.
"Meanwhile, the process continues as I&I investigators identify all available evidence for each case, including ordering further sample analysis, where appropriate," a WADA statement reads.
"In due course, the relevant IFs will be presented with evidentiary packages, which they will assess with the view to taking the cases forward as ADRVs.
"In cases where IFs choose not to take action, WADA will review the facts, discuss with the relevant IF and reserves the right to bring them forward to the Court of Arbitration for Sport."
Last week, WADA held a conference call with a number of IFs outlining the next steps and answering any questions they might have.
Similar conference calls are also said to have been held with athletes and with National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs).
Last month, WADA President Craig Reedie made a plea for unity following the fallout to the Russian doping scandal when he claimed gaining access to data at Moscow Laboratory had proved the organisation had made the right decision to reinstate the country.
Reedie used his keynote address at the Annual Symposium in Lausanne to staunchly defend the way WADA had handled the Russian situation amid criticism of the actions of the global watchdog.
The Scot, whose term at the helm of WADA is due to come to an end in November, also called on all those involved in anti-doping to work together as "divisions help nobody".
The decision from the WADA Executive Committee to lift the suspension on the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) in September sparked a backlash against the organisation from athletes and largely Western NADOs.
WADA then came under further pressure to sanction Russia after the country missed a December 31 deadline to grant access to data stored at Moscow Laboratory, although it was able to extract the information 10 days later.
But WADA opted against further punishments against the scandal-hit nation as the compliance review committee claimed formal proceedings should only be a "last resort" and that there was no precedent for such sanctions.
WADA has produced a flowchart, accessible here, that summarises the three phases of the RUSADA compliance process.
It has also compiled a document that summarises the "Progress of the Anti-Doping System in Light of the Russian Doping Crisis", available here.