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The World Anti-Doping Agency confirmed that it suffered a cyber attack on its databases, and is blaming the incursion on a Russian hacker group. The attack on WADA’s Anti-Doping Administration and Management System resulted in the release of records on four American athletes: Simone Biles, Elena Delle Donne, Venus Williams and Serena Williams. The information posted online consisted of confidential medical data, including Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) for permitted medications, and doping officials were quick to note that the information was in no way incriminating or indicative of any cover-up.
“While it is an evolving situation, at present, we believe that access to ADAMS was obtained through spear phishing of email accounts; whereby, ADAMS passwords were obtained enabling access to ADAMS account information confined to the Rio 2016 Games,” WADA said in a statement. “At present, we have no reason to believe that other ADAMS data has been compromised.”
An organization calling itself “Fancy Bear”, which law enforcement officials told WADA originated out of Russia, posted the hacked data online Tuesday morning. The group included a statement in releasing the information: “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.”
Fancy Bear promises more data dumps with “sensational proof of famous athletes taking doping substances” are to come.
However, it’s important to note that this particular hack did not reveal any incriminating data on the American athletes. TUEs are commonly accepted medical exemptions “designed to balance the need to provide athletes access to critical medication while protecting the rights of clean athletes to complete on a level playing field,” according to USADA’s website.
“It’s unthinkable that in the Olympic movement, hackers would illegally obtain confidential medical information in an attempt to smear athletes to make it look as if they have done something wrong. The athletes haven’t,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement. “In fact, 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 larger issue, as former head of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Richard Ings noted on Twitter, is the fact that these records were accessed at all:
Content of the FancyBear hack does not trouble me. Standard TUE stuff. What troubles me is the failure to protect athlete medical records
— Richard Ings (@ringsau) September 13, 2016
Russia has been enmeshed in doping scandal for months, stemming from widespread revelations of doping on its track team and a highly coordinated effort to perpetuate doping fraud during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. While the IOC permitted Russia as a nation to compete in Rio, multiple Russian athletes were banned from the Rio Games, with only a handful winning reinstatement.
UPDATE: Simone Biles released a statement via Twitter Tuesday afternoon:
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.