WADA has announced that its Intelligence and Investigations Team has completed an examination of 298 Russian athletes targeted through Operation LIMS ©Getty Images

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has announced that its Intelligence and Investigations Team (I&I) has completed its examination of 298 Russian athletes targeted through an ongoing Operation LIMS probe.

Detailed case packages have now been provided to 28 Anti-Doping Organisations (ADOs), which comprises 27 International Federations and one Major Event Organisation.

WADA's I&I has been attempting to compile evidence in relation to individual cases since retrieving a copy of the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) from two visits to Russia in January and April 2019.

After examining data and samples, WADA identified 298 athletes that were under suspicion in July 2019 and it has since been building cases against them, in a process the organisation described as "painstaking."

"The evidence that identified the target group was based on information within the Moscow LIMS database obtained by WADA I&I, evidence from the 2016 WADA-commissioned McLaren Investigation, as well as the retrieved samples," said WADA in a statement.

Over the last two days, WADA's I&I team has been holding online calls with ADOs to explain the content of the case packages already sent to them, and to explain how these should be used to determine whether the athletes implicated should have Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) pursued against them.

The sending of the case packages to the ADOs marks the end of the investigation by WADA's I&I team.

ADOs will now decide whether ADRVs should be brought against the athletes, and WADA says it will review the decisions made by ADOs, and appeal any decisions to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) if they feel this is appropriate.

Any decisions not made in what WADA considers a "reasonable time frame" can also be challenged to CAS under the World Anti-Doping Code.

WADA President Witold Bańka praised the "outstanding job" of the agency's investigations team as part of the complex case ©Getty Images
WADA President Witold Bańka praised the "outstanding job" of the agency's investigations team as part of the complex case ©Getty Images

"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 Bańka said.

"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. 

"I would like to thank them for their diligence, professionalism and expertise, as well as the organisations that have now received case packages for the work they will do and their ongoing cooperation in protecting clean sport and for bringing as many cheats to justice as possible.

"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. 

"This reanalysis process, led by WADA, has already uncovered 57 cases that are in the results management phase. This is in addition to dozens of cases that have already been brought and procedures that have been opened by IFs based on evidence uncovered by ‘Operation LIMS’ in weightlifting, biathlon and athletics, as well as other cases in various sports that resulted from the Pound and McLaren investigations commissioned by WADA between 2014 and 2016."

Of the 298 cases handed to the ADOs, 153 are unaffected by the alleged manipulation that resulted in a non-compliance case being brought by WADA against RUSADA - a case that is set to be heard by CAS later this year.

The alleged manipulation of the data relates to the files of 145 athletes within the target group of 298, however WADA has provided packages for all 298 targeted athletes to enable relevant organisations to access and evaluate all available evidence.

Currently the details of the sports and organisations that have been sent the evidence cannot be disclosed under the World Anti-Doping Code, however this information will be published once the process is complete.

Meanwhile the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of World Athletics continues to conduct its own investigations after WADA's I&I provided it with the raw data for all relevant athletes.