September 15, 2017 / 4:51 PM / a year ago

Olympics-Evidence found in Sochi drugs probe to charge athletes, IOC says

LIMA, Sept 15 (Reuters) - A first batch of athletes suspected of having been part of a Russian doping ring at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics may soon be charged with doping-related offences, the head of the investigation said on Friday.

Evidence gathered so far will be combined with results of tests to determine whether urine and blood sample bottles had been tampered with, to replace positive samples with clean samples, IOC member Denis Oswald said.

“We worked to find this evidence...” Oswald said. “We feel we have found a number of elements to charge a certain number of athletes,” he told International Olympic Committee (IOC) members at the body’s annual session meeting in Lima.

“In a few days we will have the results of the first batch of 50 bottles (determining whether or not they had been tampered with) and then we can proceed,” Oswald said.

Swiss Oswald did not say how many athletes could be involved.

Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow’s discredited anti-doping laboratory, identified in a 2015 World Anti-Doping Agency report as an ‘aider and abettor of the doping activities’, revealed a scheme for covering up Russian competitors’ positive drug samples at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

This triggered a number of investigations, including Oswald’s on behalf of the IOC, to determine whether Russia had manipulated their athletes’ samples at those Olympics three years ago.

The Russian Olympic Committee did not respond to phone calls from Reuters.

Despite repeated calls for cooperation with international bodies to help rid Russia of doping, Russian authorities have never acknowledged the state has had a role in the alleged offences.

Russian athletes’ participation at next February’s Pyeongchang Games depends on the results of the Oswald report, which he said would be completed before the end of the year.

Six skiers who have been banned from competing following a World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned report will be the first to be dealt with by Oswald, with the skiing season set to start soon.

The next batch of athletes will be Russians who are due to take part in Pyeongchang qualifiers, Oswald said. (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Additional reporting by Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber in Moscow; Editing by Toby Davis)

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