U.S. Olympians’ Medical Records Hacked from WADA
The private medical data of seven time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, gold medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles, and other female United States Olympians was posted online this Tuesday after the data was hacked from a World Anti-Doping Agency database by a “Russian cyber espionage group” who are also called Fancy Bears.
WADA had earlier warned of Cyberattacks
The hackers disclosed records of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) for these athletes. TUEs let
athletes use substances, which are otherwise-banned, because of verified medical need. Last month, Venus Williams won a silver medal as an Olympian in mixed doubles at the Rio Olympics. In her statement, which was issued by her agent, stated that she was granted TUEs when serious medical conditions occurred. Her agent also said those exemptions were reviewed by independent group of doctors, and were approved for legitimate medical reasons.
In 2011, Williams has disclosed that she had been diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome. Sjogren’s syndrome is an energy-sapping disease. She said she was disappointed to learn today that her private, medical data has been disclosed by hackers and published online without her permission.
She further added that she has followed all the rules established under the Tennis Anti-Doping Program and was granted, ‘therapeutic use exemption’. Elena Delle Donne, who is women’s basketball gold medalist, was the victim of the same hack. On Tuesday, Donne had a thumb surgery and she posted a post-operation picture on the micro-blogging site along with a short statement in which she confirmed that she takes prescribed medication granted by WADA.
USA Gymnastics in a statement said Simone Biles, who won five medals, four gold, in Rio Olympics, was approved for an exemption by WADA. The statement added that Biles had not broken any rules. Biles also wrote on Twitter that since childhood, she has taken medication to treat ADHD.
Biles posted, “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 important to me.”
Previously, the WADA had warned of cyberattacks after some investigators, who were appointed by the agency, published reports into Russian state-sponsored doping. In a statement, Olivier Niggli, World Anti-Doping Agency director general said these criminal acts are largely compromising the global anti-doping community’s efforts to re-establish trust in Russia.
WADA extended its investigation with the relevant law enforcement authorities, said the agency. The hackers obtained a database password for Yuliya Stepanova, a Russian runner, last month. Stepanova and her husband, who is an ex-official with the Russian national anti-doping agency, are now staying at a secret location in North America.
Russian Authorities reject WADA’s statement, blame Russian Hackers as unfounded
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, rejected WADA’s statement and said Russian hackers are unfounded. Peskov said there can be no discussion about any involvement of official or government involvement, or any involvement of Russian agencies in those actions.
“It’s absolutely out of the question,” he said. The International Olympic Committee said it condemns any methods that aim at tarnishing the reputation of innocent athletes.
Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said the cyberbullying of clean athletes being engaged in by these hackers is not only cowardly but also despicable.