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WADA Leaks: Fancy Bears expected to leak more names

The Sports Community is bracing itself for Russian hackers to leak the names of more athletes who competed in Rio having held a current – or previously held – therapeutic use exemption (TUE), allowing them to use medication on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list.

Tour de France winners Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins, have already been named by the cyber-espionage group Fancy Bears as having received TUEs for an illness or medical condition. But the UK Anti-Doping Agency on Thursday admitted that the hackers had gained access to the private medical records of 53 British athletes when it used a phishing email to break illegally into Wada’s anti-doping administration and management system (Adams).

UKAD’s chief executive, Nicole Sapstead, said she was “incredibly concerned and disappointed” by the invasion of privacy, adding that she found it “incredibly distressing”. A UKAD spokesperson confirmed those affected were either on TUEs when they competed at the Rio Olympics or had previously been granted them.

The BOA admitted it was “concerned” at the development but stressed it had full confidence in its athletes. A BOA spokesperson said: “We are naturally concerned that private and personal data has been accessed and are working closely with UK Anti-Doping and our sports and to clarify the facts of this matter on behalf of all Team GB athletes. We remain confident of our athlete community and their commitment to clean sport.”

Earlier Froome and Wiggins had defended their use of TUEs, with Froome saying he had “no issues” with the leaks, pointing out he has spoken publicly about being granted them before. The 31-year-old told the Scotsman newspaper this summer that he had used TUEs twice during his career, in 2013 and 2014.

He said in a statement: “I’ve openly discussed my TUEs with the media and have no issues with the leak which confirms my statements. In nine years as a professional I’ve twice required a TUE for exacerbated asthma; the last time was in 2014.”

A spokesman for Wiggins, meanwhile, was also dismissive of the leak saying: “There’s nothing new here. Everyone knows Brad suffers from asthma, his medical treatment is British Cycling and International Cycling Union approved and like all Team GB athletes he follows Wada regulations to the letter. The leak of these records is an attempt to undermine the credibility of Wada and that’s something for them to deal with.”

A British Cycling spokesman followed suit, saying: “We’re proud of our strong anti-doping culture at British Cycling. As the national governing body for the sport in Britain and a supporter of the Wada code, we condemn the publication of any individual’s medical information without their permission.”

Separately UKAD also confirmed that in 2015 UK athletes were granted 100 TUEs – with 16 rejected – a slightly higher figure than the 88 athletes who received a TUE in 2014.

WADA Leaks Raises Out of Competition Concerns

Wada’s general secretary, Olivier Niggli, said he had no doubt that the continuing attacks were being carried out in retaliation against the agency for having exposed state-sponsored doping in Russia. “We condemn this criminal activity and have asked the Russian government to do everything in their power to make it stop,” he said.

Meanwhile Dr Jeroen Swart, the world renowned South African physiologist who conducted a range of tests on Chris Froome specifically highlighted the use of cortisone out of competition, especially in cycling to lose weight without losing power, as well as thyroid medication use by runners to control appetite – both of which remain legal despite their apparent benefits.

“There is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that cyclists are using corticosteroids in training,” he said. “They are also used for treating injuries but I don’t think it would be an overwhelming burden if the door was closed on abusing corticosteroids for performance by extending the requirement of TUEs to out of competition."

“Thyroid hormone is also not on the prohibited list but it maybe used to reduce weight and control appetite. Yet on the other side of the scale we have cannabinoids which are prohibited which don’t have any performance benefits, so the justification of what isn’t on the WADA list is not as clear as it should be.”