MILAN (VN) — A cyber war is brewing. This week, a Russian hacker group named Fancy Bears retaliated after its athletes were left out of the 2016 Olympics. Its first leak of stolen records from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) included tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, and Wednesday night it released records from Tour de France stars Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
Instead of documents of treason and underground arms deals, it dealt with medical records. But, those hoping to see a bomb blast Thursday morning were reminded that the British cycling stars are playing by the books. Under the names Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, Fancy Bears listed a series of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE).
Three-time Tour de France winner Froome hardly seemed fazed by the leak. He said, “I’ve openly discussed my TUEs with the media and have no issues with the leak, which only confirms my statements.”
WADA issued a statement Tuesday and again in the early hours Thursday morning, confirming the leaks were a result of Russian hackers, Fancy Bears (Tsar Team APT28). It explained that it was likely in result to its pre-Olympic McLaren Report that exposed a state-sponsored doping system. The International Association of Athletics Federations banned Russians from taking part in the Rio de Janeiro Games as a result.
“WADA is very mindful that this criminal attack, which to date has recklessly exposed personal data of 29 athletes, will be very distressing for the athletes that have been targeted and cause apprehension for all athletes that were involved in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games,” WADA director general Olivier Niggli said.
“Given this intelligence and advice, WADA has no doubt that these ongoing attacks are being carried out in retaliation against the Agency, and the global anti-doping system, because of our independent Pound and McLaren investigations that exposed state-sponsored doping in Russia.”
The hackers said they want to tell the world about the “U.S. Olympic Team and their dirty methods to win.”
In its first data dump, Fancy Bears gave certificates and test results for tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, basketball player Elena Delle Donne, and gymnast Simone Biles. It showed that Biles tested positive for methylphenidate, but was issued a TUE. Biles responded to the news, saying she has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and has “taken medicine for it since I was a kid.”
According to the hacked documents, the Williams sisters did not test positive but had multiple certificates issued by the International Tennis Federation. Delle Donne tested positive for amphetamine on August 20 but had a certificate for it.
Fancy Bears released data of 25 athletes, including 10 more Americans and five Brits, Wednesday night. Froome and Wiggins were the only cyclists.
The UCI TUEs for Wiggins, the 2012 Tour de France winner and a five-time Olympic gold medalist (including gold in Rio), showed he had a “life long allergy to pollen nasal congestion/rhinorrhoea sneezing throat irritation, wheezing leading to dyspnoea eye watering runny nose known allergy to grass pollen.”
The international cycling federation issued Wiggins certificates in 2008 to use inhaler drug salbutamol and once each in 2011, 2012, and 2013, it gave him permission for a triamcinolone acetonide injection.
Froome applied for TUEs at the time of the 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné and the 2014 Tour de Romandie. The UCI gave him permission to use the corticosteroid prednisolone, 40mg per day for one week.
“Applications made by Team Sky for TUEs have all been managed and recorded in line with the processes put in place by the governing bodies,” team Sky in a statement.
“Team Sky’s approach to anti-doping and our commitment to clean competition are well known.”
The cycling world may not be shocked with the findings, but WADA’s vulnerability and the certificate process rattled the sporting world as a whole.
The UCI issued the following statement following Thursday’s news:
“The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) shares WADA and the other Anti-Doping Organisations condemnations of cyber-attacks to release personal data. The UCI has full confidence that WADA will do everything it can to prevent any further attacks and ensure ADAMS security.
“The management of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) in cycling is robust and fully safeguarded. The UCI TUE Committee (TUEC) is composed of independent experts in the fields of clinical, sports and exercise medicine and the coordination of the Committee is handled by the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF), the independent body mandated by the UCI to carry out anti-doping in the sport.
“A TUE can only be granted if there is unanimity amongst the panel of 3 TUEC members, which constitutes an additional level of rigor and goes beyond the applicable international standards. In addition, the UCI is one of the few International Federations who have been recording the TUEs in ADAMS since the inception of ADAMS. Whilst this was not mandatory at the time, the UCI made that choice for transparency reasons considering that it enables WADA to review TUEs granted by the UCI TUEC.”