Nine Kazakh biathletes suspended on suspicion of doping

SALZBURG, Austria -- Nine biathletes from Kazakhstan were suspended Thursday on suspicion of doping, including the country's entire women's Olympic team.

The International Biathlon Union said the cases "are based on criminal investigations in Austria and Italy."

Austrian police raided the Kazakhstan team's hotel at the 2017 world championships after medical equipment and team credentials were found in the garbage, but they were allowed to compete then after passing doping tests.

A team doctor was suspended in March after Italian police found stocks of prednisolone, a substance banned in competition, in his room.

The nine include six athletes who competed at the Pyeongchang Olympics in February, including all four members of the women's team. None are Olympic medalists. The IBU said it has asked the athletes to provide an "adequate explanation" for the doping allegations ahead of hearings on the case.

The IBU's offices were raided by Austrian police this year following allegations that bribes were paid to cover up Russian doping cases. The organization's longtime president stepped down shortly after and was replaced in September by Swede Olle Dahlin, who has pledged to reform anti-doping procedures.

Doping has long been rife in the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan. Notable cases have involved cyclist Alexandre Vinokourov, who was thrown out of the 2007 Tour de France for doping, and weightlifter Ilya Ilyin, who was stripped of two Olympic gold medals for steroid use.