Sep 15, 2016 11:03 AM
Olympic athletes shrug off medical data leaks by hackers
The Associated Press
GENEVA (AP) — A two-time Wimbledon singles champion, two Tour de France winners and an Olympic discus gold medalist had the same answer Thursday to the latest leak by hackers of confidential medical information: so what?
Petra Kvitova, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Robert Harting — all Rio de Janeiro Olympians last month — reacted with sarcasm and shrugs to the leak from the World Anti-Doping Agency database.
The four athletes said their use of approved medications was already widely reported or they welcomed the openness resulting from an alleged Russian-led cyberattack that WADA believes is revenge for investigations into a state-backed doping program in Russia.
"To say that Petra Kvitova suffers from asthma and uses medication for treatment is the same revelation as saying she's won Wimbledon," a spokesman for the Czech tennis player, Karel Tejkal, said.
German discus thrower Robert Harting, the 2012 Olympic champion, wrote on Twitter that "We don't hide anything. go transparency!"
"I've openly discussed my TUEs (therapeutic use exemptions) with the media and have no issues with the leak which confirms my statements," three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome said.
Kvitova, Harting and Froome were headline names among 25 athletes from eight countries — including 10 from the United States — whose confidential details of using authorized medications spilled into the public domain late Wednesday.
All three competed at the Rio Olympics where Kvitova and Froome won bronze medals.
Also leaked was detail of asthma medication used by Wiggins, another British winner of the Tour de France and winner of a fifth career Olympic gold in Rio.
"There's nothing new here," a statement issued on behalf of Wiggins said. "Everyone knows Brad suffers from asthma; his medical treatment is BC (British Cycling) and UCI (International Cycling Union) approved."
WADA confirmed a second round of leaked data posted online, after medical records of gold medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles and seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams were among four American female Olympians whose data was revealed Tuesday.
All 29 cases revealed records of "Therapeutic Use Exemptions" which allow athletes to use otherwise-banned substances because of a verified medical need. There is no suggestion any of the athletes broke any rules.
The substances identified in the leaks are typically anti-inflammatory medications and treatments for asthma and allergies.
Froome's use of strong anti-inflammatory medication, approved by the UCI for the 2014 Tour de Romandie race in Switzerland, was widely reported two years ago.
"In nine years as a professional I've twice required a TUE for exacerbated asthma, the last time was in 2014," said Froome, who won his third Tour de France title in July. He took a bronze medal in the time trial at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics last month.
The latest round of leaks identified 10 American athletes, five from Germany, five from Britain, and one each from Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland, Romania and Russia.
"I am furious that the hacking group is using such insolent and illegal methods," said Michael Ask, head of Anti-Doping Denmark.
Danish swimmer Pernille Blume, who won gold in Rio de Janeiro in the 50-meter freestyle, had "done nothing wrong," Ask told Denmark TV2 channel. "She has followed the rules and gotten permission to use the asthma medication which she uses — like many other athletes."
Harting was revealed to have permission to use medications during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he finished fourth.
The statement on behalf of Wiggins said the leak was "an attempt to undermine the credibility of WADA and that's something for them to deal with."
WADA said Wednesday that the Russian hacking group known as Fancy Bears had illegally gained access to its Anti-Doping Administration and Management System, or "ADAMS," and said it included confidential medical data.
"To those athletes that have been impacted, we regret that criminals have attempted to smear your reputations in this way; and, assure you that we are receiving intelligence and advice from the highest level law enforcement and IT security agencies that we are putting into action," WADA director general Olivier Niggli said in a statement.
Niggli said WADA had "no doubt that these ongoing attacks are being carried out in retaliation against the agency, and the global anti-doping system," because of independent investigations that exposed state-sponsored doping in Russia.
Russian officials have dismissed the claims as ridiculous.
"How can you prove that the hackers are Russian?" Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said through a translator during a visit to Athens on Wednesday. "You blame Russia for everything. It is very 'in' now."
Last month, hackers obtained a database password for Russian runner Yuliya Stepanova, a whistleblower and key witness for the WADA investigations. She and her husband, a former official with the Russian national anti-doping agency, are now living at an undisclosed location in North America.
The International Olympic Committee said after Tuesday's WADA statement that it "strongly condemns such methods which clearly aim at tarnishing the reputation of clean athletes."
The hackers, who have set up their own website, have not responded to messages seeking comment. Their chosen name, "Fancy Bears," appears to be a tongue-in-cheek reference to a collection of Russia-linked hackers that security researchers have blamed for a recent spate of attacks — and which WADA holds responsible for the current breach.
The group has proclaimed its allegiance to Anonymous, the loose-knit movement of online mischief-makers, and says it hacked WADA to show the world "how Olympic medals are won."
"We'll keep on telling the world about doping in elite sports," the group said Thursday. "Stay tuned for new leaks."
Associated Press writer Raphael Satter in London and Karel Janicek in Prague, Czech Republic, and AP Sports Writers Dennis Passa in Sydney and Rob Harris in Athens, Greece, contributed to this report