Venus (l.) and Serena Williams were among the four Americans whose WADA records were released by Fancy Bears, a Russian cyber-espionage group.
(MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Tuesday, September 13, 2016, 5:15 PM
This Russian bear is all growl and no bite.
A Russian cyber-espionage group declared war on the World Anti-Doping Agency late Monday after it hacked WADA’s database and released the medical files of four American Olympic athletes, including tennis star sisters Serena Williams and Venus Williams, WADA officials confirmed Tuesday.
The group, known as Fancy Bear, promised on its website that it would expose illicit doping by gymnast Simone Biles, basketball player Elena Dell Donne and the Williams sisters. But the documents posted on its website late Monday simply show that the athletes were granted Therapeutic Use Exemptions to use banned drugs because of verified medical conditions.
“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,” said Travis Tygart, the chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. “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.”
Fancy Bear — the same group believed to have hacked the Democratic National Committee’s files in July — apparently posted the confidential medical records to retaliate for the International Olympic Committee’s decision to ban more than 100 Russian athletes from last month’s Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro amid allegations that Moscow had operated a state-sanctioned doping program. The International Paralympic Committee banned the entire Russian team from the Paralympic Games, which end Sunday in Rio.
Also on Tuesday, the IOC stripped medals from two Russian track and field athletes who competed in the 2008 Beijing Games after their stored urine samples tested positive for a steroid. Two other Russian athletes whose stored samples were also recently analyzed were also sanctioned.
“We are going to tell you how Olympic medals are won,” Fancy Bear said on its website. “We hacked World Anti-Agency databases and we were shocked with what we saw. We will start with the U.S. team which has disgraced its name by tainted victories. We will also disclose exclusive information about other national Olympic teams later. Wait for sensational proof of famous athletes taking doping substances any time soon.”
The IOC has issued a statement clearing Biles, Delle Donne and the Venus Williams (l.) and Serena Williams (r.) of doping.
(Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for AYS)
WADA director general Olivier Niggli said authorities have confirmed that the cyber-attack originated in Russia and suggested the Russian Olympic movement will face future sanctions.
“Let it be known that these criminal acts are greatly compromising the effort by the global anti-doping community to re-establish trust in Russia,” Niggli said.
WADA said in a statement that it is working with law-enforcement agencies to investigate the breach. It is also conducting internal and external security checks.
A spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin denied his government had anything to do with the hacking.
The documents indicate Serena Williams and Venus Williams have TUEs for painkillers and anti-inflammatories. Venus Williams also had a TUE for an inhalant used to treat asthma.
Biles had a TUE for Foxalin xr, a medication similar to Ritalin. Delle Donne had a TUE for Adderall and hydrocortisone.Biles, 19, tweeted on Tuesday that she has taken medication for ADHD since she was a child.
“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,” Biles tweeted. “Having ADHD, and taking medicine for it is nothing to be ashamed of nothing that I’m afraid to let people know.”
Representatives for both Venus and Serena Williams did not return calls and emails by the Daily News for comment.
The IOC also issued a statement that cleared Biles, Delle Donne and the Williams sisters of doping.
“The IOC strongly condemns such methods which clearly aim at tarnishing the reputation of clean athletes,” the IOC said in a statement to Newsweek. “The IOC can confirm however that the athletes mentioned did not violate any anti-doping rules during the Olympic Games Rio 2016.”