Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko angrily denied suggestions the hacking of confidential medical records belonging to leading American sports stars has anything to do with the Russian state.
The records were held by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and relate to “therapeutic use exemptions” granted to certain athletes so they can take medication - prescribed by a doctor and verified by an independent panel - that would normally be banned because of its performance-enhancing qualities.
WADA confirmed it had been the subject of repeated cyber attacks by a Russian-based group known as the Tsar Team or Fancy Bears.
This followed the publication of the TUE data, including the drugs that were prescribed, for tennis sisters Serena and Venus Williams, four-time Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles, and US women’s basketball player Elena Delle Donne on a recently registered website, fancybear.net.
Speaking at the Uefa extraordinary congress in Athens, which Mutko attended in his capacity as the president of the Russian FU, the 57-year-old said: “How can you prove they are from Russia? You blame Russia for everything.
“We are also concerned because they have the same data for Russian athletes and we can also be a victim. No, there is no state involvement. How could there be?”
The stealing of these private medical records - which reveal the Williams sisters have been periodically prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs and pain-killers, while Biles is being treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a condition she says she has had since early childhood - has already been strongly criticised.
US Anti-Doping chief Travis Tygart said: “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. 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.”
Venus Williams said she was “disappointed” her data has been “published without...permission” while Biles added on her Twitter page: “Please know, I believe in clean sport, have always followed the rules, and will continue to do so.”
The attacks are understood to have originated in Russia in the wake of the McLaren Report, which uncovered a state-sponsored doping programme and led to some competitors being banned from this summer’s Olympic Games and the blanket exclusion of the country’s athletes at the Paralympics.
The hacker promised more hacked info will be published.
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