A group of Russian hackers linked to the government known as Fancy Bear has posted a data of Olympic drug-testing files of four U.S. athletes, including tennis players Venus and Serena Williams and gymnast champion Simone Biles. The data shows the star US Olympic athletes were allowed to take banned substances by anti-doping bosses. The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has condemned Russian hackers for leaking confidential medical files.
Fancy Bear, also known as Tsar Team (APT28) had hacked the database of Olympic athletes for the 2016 Rio games but had no comment on whether the files posted were authentic though it claimed it had more information showing how ‘tainted’ Olympics medals have been won. “We are going to tell you how Olympic medals are won.
We will start with the U.S. team which has disgraced its name by tainted victories. We will also disclose exclusive information about other national Olympic teams later,” read a post on the website, Fancybear.net.
The group claimed that Biles had tested positive for another banned substance, methylphenidate in August after but also had special dispensation to use it. The Rio Olympics quadruple gold medalist said she had long been taking medicine for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The hacker group had accused her of taking an “illicit psychostimulant”, but she said she had “always followed the rules”. However, the International Tennis Federation said the Williams sisters had been given permission to use the drugs for ‘therapeutic use’. The hackers alleged Serena Williams had taken painkillers and anti-inflammatories. Both the International Federation of Gymnasts and the International Tennis Federation said no rules had been broken.
NBC news reported the hack was part of the same covert influence campaign by the Putin regime to target numerous U.S. government, political organizations and other perceived enemies and potentially disrupt the November election. U.S. officials have linked Fancy Bear to GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency.
The hack on the WADA is thought to have been carried out in revenge for Russia being banned from the Olympics in Rio. Russian athletes were banned from the Rio Olympics and Paralympics after WADA’s recommendation to ban them due to evidence of widespread doping.
The Kremlin was furious at the treatment of its athletes in Rio with some accusing Olympic chiefs of operating ‘double standards’ in banning Russian athletes while allowing US athletes previously found guilty of doping to compete. However, Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was “out of the question” that the Kremlin or secret services were involved in the hacking.
In a statement Tuesday (September 13), WADA confirmed a broad cyber-penetration of its Anti-doping Administration and Management System, known as the ADAMS database. The hacktivists had illegally gained access via an International Olympic Committee (IOC)-created account. The organization also added the attempt was to undermine WADA and the global anti-doping system.
A post on the website said a review of hacked WADA files showed “that dozens of American athletes had tested positive” for banned substances, in cases in which they had been given official approval to use them due to extenuating circumstances.
Many athletes will now be nervously wondering if their private medical details records are the next to be made public.
The International Olympic Committee said it ‘strongly condemns such methods which clearly aim at tarnishing the reputation of clean athletes.
Now with the future of WADA, 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.