23rd August 2017

Fancy Bears hack backfires by showing football is relatively clean

A hack by the Fancy Bears appears to have spectacularly backfired, and has illustrated that football is relatively doping free. Data released by the illegal hacking group showed that 216 adverse analytical findings (AAFs) were reported from 4,600 tests between 5 January 2016 and 13 February 2017. That equates to 0.47% of tests returning an AAF – and not all AAFs equate to an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV), as some are usually the result of contaminated substances or medication.

In the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) 2015 ADRV Report, bodybuilding reported 14.89% of samples returned an AAF, followed by kickboxing (4.1%) and American football (3.55%). Football was down in 27th place (0.49%) and the data leaked by Fancy Bears appears to show that the 2016 percentage of AAFs as compared to total tests has fallen since then.

Data leaked by Fancy Bears for the 2015 year checked out with the WADA Report – both reported 160 AAFs. Yet as mentioned, this number is from 32,362 samples, meaning that just 0.49% of samples returned an AAF. The Fancy Bears data also revealed that 32 of those AAFs were reported by the Mexican anti-doping laboratory and were labelled ‘S1.2 Other Anabolic Agents’.

In 2011, WADA sent out a warning regarding the dangers of contaminated meat in Mexico causing clenbuterol positives. Section S1.2 of the Prohibited List specifically mentions clenbuterol as an example of an ‘Other Anabolic Agent’. It is therefore likely that many of these 32 AAFs were caused by contaminated meat.

In ‘traditional’ Fancy Bears fashion, the hacking group also leaked a summary of therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) related to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. TUEs are typically granted when an athlete has a genuine medical use for a substance that features on WADA’s Prohibited List.

A second batch of data released by Fancy Bears also contained information on cases still in progress – including two footballers that fall under the jurisdiction of England’s Football Association. ‘FIFA condemns in the strongest terms the publication by the Fancy Bears group of information obtained illegally, particularly personal and medical data from athletes’, read a statement emailed by the international federation of football associations (FIFA). ‘The release of such information constitutes a clear violation of the athletes’ privacy and puts at risk the ongoing fight against doping. All potential violations of the anti-doping regulations are handled by FIFA in accordance with WADA regulations.’

An FA statement echoed that of FIFA: ‘The Football Association is disappointed that strictly confidential information has been released into the public domain’, the English governing body told the Daily Telegraph. ‘The details of ongoing cases cannot be discussed or disclosed until due legal process has been completed. In the event that an Anti-Doping Rule Violation has been committed, full details will be published on the FA website in line with the World Anti-Doping Code. Additionally, it is inappropriate to publish information relating to personal medical conditions or medications and we will work alongside our partners to ascertain the extent of this matter.’

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