London: Russian hackers who have now leaked the secret drugs records of nine of Great Britain’s Olympic team were credited by Vladimir Putin last night with exposing the use of otherwise-banned substances by “healthy” athletes.
Laura Trott and Nicola Adams on Friday became the latest Team GB stars to have confidential files released by the cyber criminals who broke into a database containing information on every athlete who competed at the Rio Games. The hack is widely regarded as a revenge attack over the banning of Russia’s entire track-and-field team from the Olympics and expulsion of the country from the Paralympics for state-sponsored doping.
A group calling itself Fancy Bears released a third wave of data on Friday on athletes it accused of taking banned drugs with the consent of the World Anti-Doping Agency. The leaks have been condemned throughout the Western world but have also seen the granting of so-called Therapeutic Use Exemptions come under more scrutiny than ever.
Stopping short of condoning the actions of the hackers, Russian president Putin nevertheless said the documents they had released had raised “a lot of questions”. He added: “It seems as if healthy athletes are taking drugs legally that are prohibited for others, and people who are clearly suffering from serious illnesses, major disabilities, are suspected of taking some kind of substances and banned from the Paralympic Games.
“What they did cannot fail to be interesting to the international community, the sporting community first of all.”
The Cold War rhetoric was cranked up by Russia’s world 110 metres hurdles champion Sergey Shubenkov, who accused Western countries of “hypocrisy” over their use of doctor’s notes to enable athletes to take otherwise-banned substances.
He added: “I’m being punished for insufficient zero-tolerance of doping in my country. But now it appears that doping is actually acceptable in some cases, under some conditions.”
Friday’s leaks saw details revealed of Trott’s legitimate medical use of an otherwise-banned asthma inhaler, while history-making boxer Adams had her inhaler use and that of a corticosteroid disclosed. Both were also permissible. Trott, who last month became the first British woman to win four Olympic gold medals, and Adams, who retained her flyweight title in Rio, were among four members of Team GB whose records were leaked. The hackers had already published TUE certificates granted to five of their teammates, including Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. Trott, whose TUE for salmeterol, salbutamol and fluticasone propionate was valid between July 2009 and July 2013, has spoken at length about her lifelong battle with asthma after being born four weeks prematurely with a collapsed lung. Her agent Luke Lloyd-Davies said: “It’s disappointing that her medical records have been put on the internet but asthma is something she has always been happy to discuss.”
Adams, who was cleared to take the same substances between August 2007 and December 2009, has also previously been reported to be an asthmatic. A retrospective approval for the “one-time emergency use” by Adams of methylprednisolone in February this year was also revealed.
Swimmer Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, who suffers from the chronic bowel disease ulcerative colitis, and rower Olivia Carnegie-Brown were also part of the third such leak from Fancy Bears, who posted: “We keep on exposing the information about the athletes who got Wada permission for doping.”
In total, 40 athletes have now had their TUE history disclosed, nine of them members of the Great Britain team who brought home a record 67 medals from Rio. A further 44 members of Team GB face the same fate, including Mo Farah and gold medal-winning sailor Saskia Clark. Farah, whose double gold last month made him the country’s most successful ever track-and-field Olympian, last year revealed he had one TUE in his career for a drip he was put on after collapsing in a Utah apartment in July 2014.
A spokesperson for Farah said on Friday: “While he believes this sort of information shouldn’t be published without an individual’s permission, he isn’t concerned about anything they [the hackers] might release about him.” Clark said she had used TUEs for asthma during both the Beijing Games and London 2012. The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, branded the leaks an “outrageous” attempt to smear clean athletes and pledged to assist Wada in convincing Russia to help catch the perpetrators.