Olympics

Hackers Dump More Drug Test Results, Russia Denies Role

Fancy Bears' Hack Team releases drug reports of 25 more athletes—including one Russian

Olympics
All natural — AFP/Getty Images
Sep 15, 2016 at 11:24 AM ET

The Fancy Bears’ Hack Team, a group suspected of having Russian ties, has released a second batch of files from the breached World Anti-Doping Agency database.

Earlier in the week, the group posted the confidential test results of Americans Simone Biles, Elena Delle Donne, Serena Williams, and Venus Williams—each of whom had been granted a Therapeutic Use Exemption, allowing them legal use of otherwise banned substances for medical reasons—and this release included 25 more Olympians, many with TUEs, although this time from eight different countries.

The purported reason for these attacks, the group has written, is “exposing the athletes who violate the principles of fair play by taking doping substances.” The hacking team has done no such thing, but they have raised awareness of the TUE system and potential issues with allowing athletes to use banned substances. “Getting the right balance is always challenging,” WADA director general Olivier Niggli told the New York Times.

One Russian athlete was included in this release, boxer Misha Aloyan, who won a silver medal in Rio last month and apparently tested positive for tuaminoheptane, a nasal decongestant prohibited by WADA as a stimulant. He denied having taken the substance to TASS, a Russian news agency. Also, his test was labeled by WADA as an “adverse analyical finding” rather than an “anti-doping rules violation,” which suggests he had a TUE even though one was not published by Fancy Bears.

The WADA statement confirming this attack explicitly blamed the “Russian cyber hackers, ‘Fancy Bear’ [aka Tsar Team (APT28)]” in apparent retaliation for the investigations by Dick Pound and Richard McLaren that led to a blanket ban of all but one athlete from the nation’s track and field team and 118 athletes in all.

These leaks seem motivated by the contention that Olympians from other countries with TUEs are no better than Russian dopers. Even the International Olympic Committee itself came forward after the first release of documents and said it “strongly condemns such methods which clearly aim at tarnishing the reputation of clean athletes. The IOC can confirm however that the athletes mentioned did not violate any anti-doping rules during the Olympic Games Rio 2016.” (The IOC did not immediately respond to Vocativ’s request for comment following the second episode.)

“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,” Niggli said in a statement. “We condemn this criminal activity and have asked the Russian Government to do everything in their power to make it stop,” he went on. “Continued cyber-attacks emanating from Russia seriously undermine the work that is being carried out to rebuild a compliant anti-doping program in Russia.”

Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, denied his country’s involvement.

“We can say without a hesitation any involvement in such actions on the part of official Moscow, the Russian government or any Russian secret services is strictly out of the question,” Peskov told reporters. “It’s simply ruled out.”

Similarly, the Associated Press reported that Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko claimed his country had become a target.

“How can you prove that the hackers are Russian?” Mutko said through a translator on Wednesday. “You blame Russia for everything. It is very ‘in’ now.”

Mutko said the inclusion of Aloyan in the data dump was evidence that Russians were not immune to hacking.

“We’re not protected ourselves, as you can see,” Mutko said, according to RT, an English-language Russian publication. “I know that Niggli reached our government, and we will [protect ourselves] as our [security] agencies to work on it.”