The Russian Weightlifting Federation (RWF) has launched an internal investigation after a television documentary claimed "anti-doping violations and crimes" had been committed by weightlifters in collaboration with Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the national anti-doping laboratory in Moscow.
The alleged offences are believed to have taken place between 2012 and 2015, the same period that accounts for most of the 12 doping violations by Russian weightlifters announced by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) in August.
Rodchenkov now lives in the United States in a witness protection programme after becoming a "whistle-blower" for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2016.
His evidence led to the publication of the McLaren Report, which suggested there had been state-sponsored doping and cover-ups in Russian sport.
Russia’s athletics and weightlifting teams were banned from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro shortly after the first part of the McLaren Report was published in July of that year.
There has been widespread talk of Russia being banned from Tokyo 2020 after more recent revelations about manipulation of anti-doping data in Moscow: WADA’s Executive Board decide on the next step at a meeting in Lausanne on Monday (Dec 9).
The documentary, titled "Muddy WADA" and broadcast by Russia’s NTV station at the weekend, revealed that Rodchenkov and his former deputy, Timothy Sobolewski, used a private chat system at the Moscow Laboratory to discuss some of their schemes to hide - and profit from - positive tests.
Investigators managed to find a way into the chat system, which still exists, and found evidence that allegedly incriminates Rodchenkov, Sobolewski, and the chat-system creator Oleg Migachev.
Russia's official state news agency TASS reported today that "fragments of the correspondence" referred to alleged anti-doping rule violations and crimes committed by those three and "some athletes, weightlifters".
Other Russian news outlets suggested that WADA would already have known, via Rodchenkov, about the revelations in the documentary.
Maxim Agapitov, President of the RWF, promised his organisation would "request all the information from the NTV journalists and ask for WADA assistance in the internal investigation".
The RWF sent a statement to insidethegames, titled, "The old sins have to be paid by the ones who committed them, but not the athletes of the new generation".
The statement reads: "The main goal of the Federation for last few years was to protect clean athletes from unfair competition...That is why considering the importance of the uncovered information the President of the Russian Weightlifting Federation, Maxim Agapitov, initiated the internal investigation of the facts mentioned in the documentary.
"If the investigation confirms the violation of the anti-doping rules all the documents will be provided to a competent anti-doping organization - RUSADA or IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) - to impose the appropriate sanctions and WADA will be informed as well."
The statement added: "Additionally, the Federation itself will undertake measures against all the guilty persons.
"Russian Weightlifting Federation declares that it will always adhere to the policy of zero tolerance on doping, will work hard to clean our sport from the cheaters and violators of the anti-doping Rules, will take all the measures to protect clean athletes.
"It does not matter when that violation was committed.
"The cheaters will never be at ease.
"Cheaters are not the members of the Russian Weightlifting Family."
Agapitov has been campaigning on behalf of his team in recent months, after Russia became one of five nations - alongside Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus and Azerbaijan - to be limited to only two places at Tokyo 2020 because of its high number of doping cases since 2008.
Among those named in August in the 12 historic cases were Dmitry Lapikov and Nadezhda Evstyukina, both of whom forfeited Beijing 2008 medals after testing positive retrospectively, and the 2013 and 2014 super-heavyweight world champion Ruslan Albegov, winner of a bronze medal at London 2012.