The Justice Department Is Investigating Russia’s Doping Scandal

The massive Russian doping scandal is now facing federal scrutiny

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May 17, 2016 at 5:58 PM ET

While Russian officials continue to alternate between issuing huffy yet fervid denials and sulkily admitting that, yes, state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes is incredibly pervasive and widespread, the United States Justice Department has decided to make a federal case out of it. Literally.

Sources close to the investigation told the New York Times that attorneys from the Eastern District of New York may charge Russia with both conspiracy and fraud and have begun “scrutinizing Russian government officials, athletes, coaches, anti-doping authorities and anyone who might have benefited unfairly from a doping regime.”

As to how the Justice Department might have jurisdiction to press charges against non-citizens living outside American borders, the Times explained that anyone—an athlete, a Russian official, a financier—who either participated while loaded to the gills with performance-enhancing substances, or who worked to create an uneven playing field, even if it was simply a question of funneling the money through U.S. banks, could be subject to prosecution.

That same justification is what led prosecutors from the Eastern District to bring charges against FIFA, an investigation which ultimately resulted in the high profile busts of two former vice presidents in May 2014, and has since nabbed more than 40 additional corrupt officials and executives.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be nearly as successful this time around. In fact, the odds are seriously stacked against them.

“The inquiry, which originated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, would have to clear several hurdles before charges could be filed,” the Times wrote. “Even if prosecutors are able to establish jurisdiction, securing the cooperation of Russian authorities in pursuing evidence and witnesses—and in ultimately delivering any charged defendants to the United States—would be all but impossible.”

Ironically, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the ex-Russian anti-doping head who spilled the beans to the Times last week, accusing 15 medal-winners of cheating and unpacking the entirety of his former country’s top-down attempts to dodge testers in the run up to the 2014 games in Sochi, is himself also a target of the investigation.

Now facing potential federal charges in the country he fled to and the considerable danger from Putin’s gang of fixers and enforcers in his former home, Rodchenkov glumly said there’s zero chance that he’d ever return to Mother Russia, describing himself as “between two flames.”