Australian Olympic medallists are the latest victims of the hacking of confidential WADA files by a group that US cyber security experts believe has links to the Russian secret service.
The Russian-based Fancy Bears hacking team released a new set confidential records belonging to Olympic medallists, this time including three Australians — rowers Kim Brennan and Alex Belonogoff, and track cyclist Jack Bobridge.
All three have Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE), meaning they are cleared of any breach because they’ve received official permission to use certain substances to treat medical conditions.
Bobridge, who won a silver medal in Rio for the mean’s team pursuit event, took to Twitter after the data was released to speak openly about his battle with rheumatoid arthritis.
1/3 Regarding the WADA hacks + "leaks"of my personal information I'd like to make it clear I have no problem with this info becoming public
— Jack Bobridge (@JackBobridge) September 17, 2016
“I’d like to make it clear I have no problem with this info becoming public,” Bobridge tweeted.
“It is widely known that I have rheumatoid arthritis that, at times, has left me barely able to grip the handlebars.
“I have taken appropriate medication for this terrible disease according to the UCI rules with their written permission.”
Rowing Australia also released a statement on Saturday to defend Brennan, a Rio gold medallist, and Belonogoff, who won silver in the men’s quadruple sculls.
Rowing Australia condemned Fancy Bears for the leak of the confidential medical data and clarified both athletes have TUEs to carry adrenaline in the form of EpiPens to treat anaphylaxis.
Brennan, who was hospitalised in January 2014 with a severe allergic reaction, denied reports she had used adrenaline on multiple occasions.
“To call into question the use of a substance administered by a doctor in a hospital emergency department to combat a severe allergic reaction is beyond disappointing,” Brennan said.
“This administration of adrenaline was in no way performance enhancing. I was seriously ill following this hospitalisation and I am upset I have to justify in the public domain my personal medical records.”
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) denounced the hacking, saying exemptions due to TUEs “do not constitute doping.”
“Despite the efforts of the hackers to twist these exemptions to prove foul play, in obtaining a TUE the athletes have operated entirely within the rules of clean, fair sport,” ASADA said in a statement.
“TUEs exist so that athletes who suffer from legitimate medical conditions can seek treatment.”
Other athletes named in the latest batch of leaked documents included British gold medal-winning cyclist Laura Trott and Spanish swimming gold medallist Mireia Belmonte, along with six others.
Earlier this week, the US Olympic team had its private documents leaked by Fancy Bears, along with Tour de France winners Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins of Britain.
According to US security experts, the Fancy Bears (also known as Sofacy or APT 28) group may have links to the Russian secret service.
“The group has been observed targeting victims in multiple sectors across the globe,” American cybersecurity company Crowdstrike said in a blog post.
“Because of its extensive operations against defense ministries and other military victims, FANCY BEAR’s profile closely mirrors the strategic interests of the Russian government, and may indicate affiliation with Главное Разведывательное Управление (Main Intelligence Department) or GRU, Russia’s premier military intelligence service.”
Crowdstrike discovered Fancy Bears was affiliated with another hack group, Cozy Bears, responsible for infiltrating the Democratic National Convention last year.
Crowdstrike’s vice president of intelligence, Adam Meyers, told the ABC that Fancy Bears seemed to be linked to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), formerly headed by President Vladimir Putin.
“When we look at the types of things the Russian Government cares about today there’s a wide range of things – counter-terrorism, counter-espionage, anything to do with Ukraine, anything to do with Syria, things to do with Turkey,” Mr Meyers said.
“And then there’s more national identity type things, so sporting events and issues that have been there for some time now.
“Particularly, when the FSB and the Russian anti-doping organisation had been called out as supporting the doping activities of Russian athletes, as soon as that started happening that became something that immediately drew the interest of the Russian Government.”