WASHINGTON, May 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into allegations of state-sanctioned doping involving professional Russian athletes during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, sources reportedly said Tuesday.
The United States attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York is leading the inquiry, news reports said. The probe is a response to allegations that top Russian athletes used performance-enhancing drugs at the Sochi games, and their government was fully aware of the practice.
Prosecutors are reportedly seeking fraud and conspiracy charges in the case, which is the most significant action involving Russian doping to date.
A report by the World Anti-Doping Agency last fall concluded that several top Russian athletes used the banned substances during competition, sometimes at the encouragement of the government in Moscow. Some of those athletes went on to victory in various events.
The Russian government has denied reports that it encouraged doping.
Grigory Rodchenkov, a chemist who ran the laboratory that handled testing for thousands of Olympians, claimed earlier this month that he was responsible for preparing the drugs for athletic use.
"People are celebrating Olympic champion winners, but we are sitting crazy and replacing their urine," Rodchenkov said. "Can you imagine how Olympic sport is organized?"
"We were fully equipped, knowledgeable, experienced and perfectly prepared for Sochi like never before," he added. "It was working like a Swiss watch."
The Justice Department's action follows a similar move this month by the FBI, which elected to investigate the claims. Further, WADA said recently that it also plans to investigate further.
Some of the athletes linked to the Sochi doping scandal are at least 15 Olympic medal winners and the entire women's national hockey team, Russian news agency Sputnik reported Tuesday.
The Justice Department's announcement is doing no favors for Moscow's sporting reputation. During the Sochi Olympics, numerous scandal claims and other embarrassing problems surfaced -- such as widespread corruption in the hosting process and major accommodation problems for visitors.
Russia must clean up its practices, WADA said, in order to participate at this summer's games in Rio de Janiero.