Two Russians probed for hacking anti-doping agency WADA

Authorities in Switzerland are looking into a case of "political espionage" involving two Russians who allegedly tried to hack the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Swiss prosecutors said on Saturday.

The pair reportedly tried to hack WADA's regional European office in Lausanne. According to Swiss media, the seat of the International Olympic Committee in the same Swiss city was also targeted in a cyberattack. The Office of the Swiss Attorney General (OAG) said that the proceedings were launched in March 2017 but were only now made public.

Read more: WADA slams Russia's state-sponsored hack attack on database

The OAG also said that the individuals were the same two Russian nationals who were arrested over a separate plot in the Netherlands and expelled in March 2018. While the details on the target remain scarce, Dutch and Swiss media reported this week that the target was the Spiez laboratory in Bern, which allegedly probed samples linked both with the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and the gas attacks in Syria.

On March 26, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that the Netherlands would expel "two Russian intelligence workers from the Russian embassy" over the Skripal attack, but did not provide any specifics.

Russia: 'Fairy tales'

Russian authorities have repeatedly clashed with WADA over the allegations of a massive, state-sponsored doping program in place in Russia. WADA suspended the country's anti-doping body in 2015.

On Friday, only a day before the Office of Swiss Attorney General (OAG) announced the hacking allegations, WADA's independent review committee recommended that Russia's anti-doping agency be reinstated. The move could be approved at the next meeting of WADA's executive committee on September 20.

Responding to the latest hacking probe, the Russian Embassy in Bern described them as "fairy tales" on Saturday.

"It is noteworthy that these publications, which include adjectives like 'suspected' and 'presumably' has appeared immediately after the (…) Review Committee issued a recommendation to lift the suspension of the Russian Anti-Doping agency," the embassy said in a statement.

"It is hard to avoid the impression that's why the latest fairy tales about Russian hackers attacking WADA were so necessary right now," the diplomats added.

dj/ng (Reuters, AFP, SID)