News 14th September 2016

Athletes defend reputations following ADAMS data breach

Athletes have been forced to defend their reputation, after a Russian hacking group illegally published their personal information, claimed that it constituted evidence of doping. As reported by The Sports Integrity Initiative yesterday, the data published comprised adverse analytical findings (AAF) and Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE) relating to US athletes, which does not constitute evidence of doping or any wrongdoing.

An AAF means that a substance featuring on WADA’s Prohibited List has been found in an athlete sample, however it does not necessarily mean that an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) has occurred. Many AAFs can be legitimately explained due to consumption of food or medicine to treat common illnesses (such as a cold). An AAF remains in the ADAMS database for ten years but, crucially, anti-doping organisations (ADOs) should not publish them unless they constitute an ADRV, which they are required to publish under Article 14.3 of the Code.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) yesterday confirmed that the source of the attack was ‘a Russian cyber espionage group operator by the name of Tsar Team (APT28), also known as Fancy Bear’, which had accessed its Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS). ‘At present, we have no reason to believe that other ADAMS data has been compromised’, read a WADA statement. However, Fancy Bear warned that yesterday just represented the start of its operations, and more information would be leaked soon.

‘I have ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder] and I have taken medicine for it since I was a kid’, read a statement from US Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, who won four gold medals and a bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympics. ‘Please know, I believe in clean sport, I have always followed the rules and will continue to do so, as fair play is critical to sport and is very important to me’.

Fancy Bears leaked a recent AAF relating to Biles from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, which it had illegally obtained from the ADAMS database. The AAF was for stimulants methylphenidate and its metabolite ritalinic acid. The trade name for methylphenidate is ritalin, which is commonly used to treat ADHD. An earlier expired TUE leaked by Fancy Bears related to focalin, another drug used to treat ADHD.

‘I was disappointed today to learn that my private medical data has been compromised by hackers and published without my permission’, read a statement from Venus Williams. ‘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 term s of the Tennis Anti-Doping Program require a strict process for approval, which I have adhered to when serious medical conditions have occurred. The exemptions posted in the hacked report are reviewed by an anonymous, independent group of doctors, and approved for legitimate medical reasons. I am one of the strongest supporters of maintaining the highest levels of integrity in competitive sport and I have been highly disciplined in following the guidelines set by WADA, USADA, the ITF and collectively, the Tennis Anti-Doping Program.’

The data relating to Williams featured expired TUEs for triamcinolone, prednisone and formoterol. Triamcinolone is a corticosteroid used to treat a number of conditions including eczema, arthritis-related conditions and asthma. Prednisone is also a corticosteroid and is also used to treat asthma and other more serious medical conditions. Formoterol is a beta-2 agonist often used to treat asthma.

Files were also leaked relating to Serena Williams and basketball star Elena Delle Donne, who won gold at the Rio Olympics. Both have yet to release a statement, however as outlined yesterday, none of the documents released appear to indicate any wrongdoing by any of the athletes concerned.

In April, Fancy Bears was allegedly behind the hacking of French TV network TV5Monde, which began to broadcast Islamic State logos. Russian intelligence agency GRU was allegedly behind the hack, reported The Guardian.

“WADA condemns these ongoing cyber-attacks that are being carried out in an attempt to undermine WADA and the global anti-doping system,” said WADA’s Director General Olivier Niggli. “WADA has been informed by law enforcement authorities that these attacks are originating out of Russia. 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 further to the outcomes of the Agency’s independent McLaren Investigation Report.”

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