Russian hackers leak Ser­ena’s med­i­cal files

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

The World Anti-Dop­ing Agency (Wada) has con­demned Russian hackers for leak­ing con­fi­den­tial med­i­cal files of star US Olympic athletes.

Athletes af­fected in­clude ten­nis play­ers Venus and Ser­ena Wil­liams and teenage gym­nast Si­mone Biles.

A group calling it­self “Fancy Bears” claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the hack of a Wada data­base.

Af­ter the leak, Ms Biles said she had long been tak­ing medicine for At­ten­tion Deficit Hy­per­ac­tiv­ity Dis­or­der.

The hacker group had ac­cused her of tak­ing an “il­licit psy­cho-stim­u­lant”, but she said she had “al­ways fol­lowed the rules”.

The Rio Olympics quadru­ple gold medal­list had ob­tained the nec­es­sary per­mis­sion to take pre­scrip­tion medicine on the Wada banned drugs list, USA Gym­nas­tics said in a state­ment.

Wada said in a state­ment that the cy­ber at­tacks were an at­tempt to un­der­mine the global anti-dop­ing sys­tem.

Russian govern­ment spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was “out of the ques­tion” that the Krem­lin or se­cret ser­vices were in­volved in the hack­ing, Russian news agen­cies reported.

The hackers ac­cessed records de­tail­ing “Ther­a­peu­tic Use Ex­emp­tions” (TUEs), which al­low the use of banned sub­stances due to athletes’ ver­i­fied med­i­cal needs.

“By virtue of the TUE, Biles has not bro­ken any drug-test­ing reg­u­la­tions, in­clud­ing at the Olympic Games in Rio,” USA Gym­nas­tics said.

Fancy Bears said TUEs amount to “li­cences for dop­ing”.

The leaked doc­u­ments al­lege that Ser­ena Wil­liams was granted per­mis­sion to use drugs com­monly used to treat mus­cle in­juries, such as anti-in­flam­ma­to­ries, while Biles is said to use Ri­talin - a treat­ment for her ADHD.

For­mer - Aus­tralian Sports Anti-Dop­ing Author­ity head Richard Ings said: “Noth­ing I see here gives me cause for alarm,” adding it looked “to­tally nor­mal”. “The is­sue here is pri­vacy breach.” ‘Com­pro­mis­ing trust’ Rus­sia’s track and field team were banned from the Rio Olympics over an al­leged state-backed dop­ing pro­gramme. All of its athletes are barred from the on­go­ing Paralympics.

“Let it be known that these crim­i­nal acts are greatly com­pro­mis­ing the ef­fort by the global anti-dop­ing com­mu­nity to re-es­tab­lish trust in Rus­sia,” Wada di­rec­tor-gen­eral Olivier Nig­gli said.

‘An act of re­venge?’ - Anal­y­sis by BBC sports ed­i­tor Dan Roan

This is the lat­est twist in what was al­ready the big­gest dop­ing scan­dal in the his­tory of sport, and fur­ther ev­i­dence of the bit­ter di­vi­sions it has sparked.

The hack ap­pears to be an act of re­venge - re­tal­i­a­tion for Wada’s damn­ing re­port into Russian state-spon­sored cheat­ing.

Although the Russian govern­ment has de­nied any in­volve­ment, it has al­ways main­tained that the coun­try has been made a scape­goat for a much wider prob­lem, and this will only add fuel to that fire.

Although the athletes con­cerned have bro­ken no rules, the rev­e­la­tions - along with the threat of more leaks of other com­peti­tors’ med­i­cal records - will in­evitably ex­ac­er­bate the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing TUEs at a time when sport’s lead­ers are des­per­ately try­ing to re­store trust.

Many athletes will now be ner­vously won­der­ing if their pri­vate med­i­cal details records are the next to be made pub­lic.

And with the fu­ture of Wada cur­rently in the bal­ance, the fact its se­cu­rity was so badly com­pro­mised will raise more ques­tions over the en­tire anti-dop­ing sys­tem, es­pe­cially af­ter the ac­count of Russian whistle­blower Yuliya Stepanova was hacked last month, lead­ing to fears for her safety.

US Anti-Dop­ing Agency chief Travis Ty­gart called the hack “cow­ardly and de­spi­ca­ble”.

“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,” he said.— BBC.

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