On Sept. 12, 2016, a Russian group specialized in cyber-espionage hacked the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) database. According to Daily News, the crew, known as the Fancy Bears, released the medical files of four American Olympians; tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, gymnast Simone Biles, and basketball player Elena Delle Donne.
WADA confirmed the cyber-attacks, on September 13, denouncing the group threatening the global anti-doping system. As Eurosport stated, the WADA officials declared that the hackers could have gained access to the files through an account created in the name of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the 2016 Summer Games.
The cyber-attacks occurred a month after WADA banned Russia’s track and field teams from the Rio Olympics. Athletes in other disciplines also had to prove that they have not used any forbidden substances to become eligible to compete in the Rio de Janeiro competitions. According to BBC, the entire Russian team was also suspended from the ongoing Paralympic Games.
As a consequence of the hacking, the Fancy Bears announced that they would release exclusive information on many national Olympic teams, starting with the USA crew. Among the files accessed by the hackers, there are details about the Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs). According to these, athletes are allowed to use banned substances due to medical needs.
The Williams Sisters Targeted by Russian Hackers
The Russian cyber-espionage group hacked the WADA files on the USA Olympic team and released information about the Williams sisters. The documents showed that the two tennis players used many substances found on the list of forbidden drugs.
According to RT, in 2010, 2014 and 2015, the former ranking leader of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) used oxycodone, hydromorphone, prednisone, and methylprednisolone. Although the substances are banned, Williams had authorized permission to take them from the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The older Williams sister was also allowed to use prednisone, triamcinolone, prednisolone, and formoterol for therapeutic use.
Simone Biles Takes Medication for ADHD
At the 2016 Rio Olympics Biles, the most decorated American gymnast with five medals; four gold and one bronze. Being one of the best American athletes of the moment, the Russian Fancy Bears targeted the gymnast in their cyber-attacks. The released files proved that Biles took substances that appear on the WADA banned list.
However, the athlete reacted and defended herself by recognizing that she has taken medicine since she was a child to treat her Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). According to the TUE conditions, the disease is treatable, and Biles had permission to use the forbidden substances. As Daily Mail stated, the International Federation of Gymnasts (IFG) was aware of Biles’ situation and declared that the athlete broke no rules.
Elena Delle Donne Reacted
The files released by the Fancy Bears showed that basketball player Delle Donne used amphetamines. According to RT, she sent a public message on social media, reacting to the hacking. Delle Donne thanked the Russian group for publicly exposing the fact that she is using forbidden substances. She mentioned that WADA made an exception and approved her prescription for a condition she has been diagnosed with.
Russian Officials Deny Involvement in the Cyber-Attacks
A Russian cyber-espionage group hacked the WADA files regarding some Olympic teams, including the USA crew that won the most medals at the 2016 Rio Summer Games. According to BBC, the attacks look like an act of revenge, as Russia had two teams banned from the Olympics and the entire Paralympic crew was suspended from the ongoing competitions.
The Russian government denied any involvement in the hacking. However, state officials suggested that their national Olympic crew was the scapegoat for a huge problem that affected the sports industry globally.
By Bianca-Ramona Dumitru
Edited by Jeanette Smith
BBC: Russian hackers leak Simone Biles and Serena Williams files
Daily Mail: Russian hackers attack World Anti-Doping Agency in revenge for the country’s Olympic ban ‘and accuse Simone Biles and the Williams sisters of taking banned substances’
Eurosport: Rio 2016 Olympics: Russian hackers leak US athletes’ medical data
NY Daily News: WADA hacked by Russian group, shows Williams’ and Biles’ records
RT: Top US athletes deny cheating after hackers show usage of banned substances
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