Russian hackers access U.S. athletes’ data, cry foul
The World Anti-Doping Agency confirmed that its database had been accessed by an outfit WADA says is a Russian cyber espionage group.
Known as Fancy Bear, the group released information on U.S. athletes Simone Biles, Elena Delle Donne, Serena Williams and Venus Williams on its website Monday.
“WADA deeply regrets this situation and is very conscious of the threat that it represents to athletes whose confidential information has been divulged through this criminal act,” WADA director general Olivier Niggli said in a statement.
It’s at least the second time in the past month that a hacker has gained access to WADA’s Anti-Doping Administration and Management System database.
WADA previously confirmed that someone accessed the account of Russian whistle-blower Yuliya Stepanova, an 800-meter runner who helped expose widespread doping in Russian track and field.
WADA said it thought Fancy Bear accessed the Americans’ data through an International Olympic Committee account created for the Rio Games by spear phishing email accounts to gain passwords to its database. WADA said it had contacted relevant law enforcement.
In releasing the records Mon- day, Fancy Bear said it planned to release more information.
The group said, “After detailed studying of the hacked WADA databases we figured out that dozens of American athletes had tested positive. The Rio Olympic medalists regularly used illicit strong drugs justified by certificates of approval for therapeutic use. In other words they just got their licenses for doping. This is other evidence that WADA and IOC’s Medical and Scientific Department are corrupt and deceitful.”
The information published Monday included adverse findings from Rio and therapeutic-use exemptions. Athletes can take a drug for which they might test positive and not be sanctioned if they have a therapeutic-use exemption.
In a statement to Russian news agency TASS, the IOC said the athletes mentioned did not violate anti-doping rules.
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement, “In each of the situations, the athlete has done everything right in adhering to the global rules for obtaining permission to use a needed medication. ... The cyberbullying of innocent athletes being engaged in by these hackers is cowardly and despicable.”
The leaked documents showed Biles, who won four gymnastics gold medals and a bronze, tested positive for a drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder during the Rio Games.
She tweeted that she had ADHD and had taken medication for it since she was a kid. “Please know, I believe in clean sport, have always followed the rules, and will continue to do so as fair play is critical to sport and is very critical to me,” her tweet read.
Russia has been mired in a doping scandal for nearly a year.
Four U.S. Olympians, including gymnast Simone Biles, saw their data hacked.