In what a U.S. official said was a "smear" attack on American Olympians, hackers have posted online medical and drug testing records for top athletes including gymnast Simone Biles, tennis players Serena and Venus Williams and basketball player Elena Delle Donne.
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The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced online today that hackers, who were previously linked to the Russian government, are believed to have breached one of their systems and then leaked the information publicly.
The group, calling itself Fancy Bear, alleged that the records they pilfered show the U.S. athletes had "regularly used illicit strong drugs justified by certificates of approval for therapeutic use." The records themselves show that the athletes were permitted to take the medication for existing conditions.
In the case of Biles, the hackers revealed she took medication for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
"I have ADHD and I have taken medicine for it since I was a kid," Biles posted on Twitter following the leak. "Having ADHD, and taking medicine for it is nothing to be ashamed of[,] nothing that I'm afraid to let people know."
Delle Donne posted on Facebook, "Side note: I'd like to thank the hackers for making the world aware that I legally take a prescription for a condition I've been diagnosed with, which WADA granted me an exemption for. Thanks, guys!"
Venus Williams released a statement saying she was "disappointed to learn today that [her] private, medical data has been compromised by hackers and published without [her] permission." Like the others, Williams said she followed the rules to apply for, and obtain, a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for medication. Her sister, Serena, declined to comment.
Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said the hack was 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. The respective International Federations, through the proper process, granted the permission and it was recognized by the IOC [International Olympic Committee] and the USADA," Tygart said. "The cyber-bullying of innocent athletes being engaged by these hackers is cowardly and despicable."
The hacking group Fancy Bear was previously identified as one of the actors suspected of being behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee in June. Private cyber security firms alleged the hackers were tied to Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU. But in a post online today, the Fancy Bear actors who leaked the WADA information declared they were with Anonymous -- an international, loosely-organized hacking collective.
Last month the cyber security firm ThreatConnect analyzed what WADA said then were emails from spoof of WADA's domain, meant to trick people in the organization or linked organizations into clicking on malicious links. ThreatConnect said the fake domains had registration and hosting information "consistent with Russian FANCY BEAR tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs)." The Anonymous claim is likely disinformation, according to ThreatConnect's chief intelligence officer Richard Barger.
Barger told ABC News today that today's leak appeared to be an escalation of what the firm saw in August -- "sour grapes" from the Russians, whose athletes were largely banned from competition in Rio because of doping.
"We now live in a day where these entities that have strained relations with Russia just happen to have information released afterwards," Barger said. "It's almost like, 'If you embarrass us, we'll embarrass you.'"
A spokesperson for the Kremlin reportedly denied Russian involvement in the WADA hack.