Saturday 22 October 2016

Serena and Venus Williams and Simone Biles given drugs exemption, hackers reveal

Damian Spellman

Published 13/09/2016 | 22:42

There is no suggestion the TUEs granted to the Williams sisters, Biles and Delle Donne were anything but legitimate under current anti-doping rules
There is no suggestion the TUEs granted to the Williams sisters, Biles and Delle Donne were anything but legitimate under current anti-doping rules

A cyber-attack in which the personal details of high-profile Olympic athletes were illegally accessed has been condemned as "cowardly and despicable".

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Hackers claim to have obtained information relating to the likes of American tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams and four-time 2016 gymnastics gold medallist Simone Biles.

However, United States Anti-Doping chief Travis T Tygart was unimpressed by what he described as an attempt to "smear" clean athletes.

He said: "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. 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."

Cyber espionage group Tsar Team (APT28), which is also known as Fancy Bears, is said to have accessed information concerning substances for which athletes have sought and received therapeutic use exemption (TUE).

Venus Williams said she was "disappointed" that her medical data has been "compromised by hackers and published without...permission".

She said in a statement posted on Twitter by WTA Insider: "I have followed the rules established under the Tennis Anti-Doping Program in applying for, and being granted, 'therapeutic use exemptions'.

"The applications for TUEs under the Tennis Anti-Doping Program require a strict process of approval which I have adhered to when serious medical conditions have occurred."

The 36-year-old added she was "one of the strongest supporters of maintaining the highest level of integrity in competitive sport".

Speaking about Biles, Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics, said: "Simone has filed the proper paperwork per USADA and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) requirements and there is no violation. The International Gymnastics Federation, the United States Olympic Committee and USADA have confirmed this."

Biles added in a short statement on her Twitter page: "I have ADHD and I have taken medicine for it since I was a kid. 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."

WADA revealed that hackers had illegally gained access to its anti-doping administration and management system (ADAMS) database via an IOC-created account for the Rio Games.

Director general Olivier Niggli said: "WADA deeply regrets this situation and is very conscious of the threat that it represents to athletes whose confidential information has been divulged through this criminal act."

The attacks are understood to have originated in Russia in the wake of the McLaren Report, which uncovered a state-sponsored doping programme and led to some competitors being banned from this summer's Olympic Games and the blanket exclusion of the country's athletes at the Paralympics.

WADA said it was taking the current situation "very seriously" and was carrying out both internal and external security checks as well as working with law enforcement authorities in a bid to protect ADAMS users.

The Fancy Bears hack team claims on its website: "We are going to tell you how Olympic medals are won. We hacked World Anti-Doping Agency databases and we were shocked with what we saw.

"We will start with the US team which has disgraced its name by tainted victories. We will also disclose exclusive information about other national Olympic teams later."

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