The Russian-based hacker group 'Fancy Bears' claims to have obtained "sensational proof" of doping by several famous US athletes as a result of hacking the databases of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Documents from the WADA database that are alleged to prove the drug use of athletes including US gymnast Simone Biles - who won four gold medals at the Rio Olympics - tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams and US basketball star Elena Delle Donne, have been posted on fancybear.net.
The group promises to reveal information regarding other Olympics teams in the near future.
Fancy Bears - which identifies itself as part of the Anonymous hacktivist group - was linked to a breach of the WADA database in August 2016. Cybersecurity researchers at ThreatConnect told The Guardian that the attack appeared to be a "thuggish" retaliation against Russian whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova, a sprinter who claimed in a documentary that "99 per cent" of athletes selected to represent Russia use banned substances.
At the time of the initial hack, ThreatConnect speculated that the attack was "likely are part of targeted activity by Russian actors in response to the whistleblower and the WADA’s recommendation to ban all Russian athletes from the Olympic and Paralympic games in Rio. Successful operations against these individuals and organizations could facilitate Russian efforts to privately or publicly intimidate them or other potential whistleblowers."
This latest leak from Fancy Bears - if, in fact, the website is controlled by the same people behind the WADA attack of August - would appear to be an about-turn: with the damage done on Russia's own athletes, the "Russian actors" could now be looking to pour scorn on the celebrated athletes of other nations.
Documents listed on the Fancy Bears site purport to indicate that "Rio Olympic medalists regularly used illicit strong drugs justified by certificates of approval for therapeutic use", with copies of the certificates available. It's not clear if the certificates are genuine, and WADA is yet to release a statement in regard to the claims. ESPN investigative journalist T J Quinn has suggested that even if the documents are real, the drugs listed don't substantiate 'doping' claims:
1 Before people lose their minds... IF leaked docs are accurate, they do not suggest Simone Biles or the Williams sisters "doped." The docs— T.J. Quinn (@TJQuinnESPN) September 13, 2016
2 show that they tested positive for drugs they were cleared to take for medical reasons. The docs suggest Biles has ADHD and that Serena— T.J. Quinn (@TJQuinnESPN) September 13, 2016
3 was treated with CORTICOsteroids for injuries. People will see "steroids" and flip out, but these are NOT muscle-building anabolic drugs.— T.J. Quinn (@TJQuinnESPN) September 13, 2016
4 There is nothing in the documents that suggest anyone did anything wrong. Besides the fact that someone hacked the documents.— T.J. Quinn (@TJQuinnESPN) September 13, 2016
We'll update this story as soon as we learn whether the claims are a hoax, or if WADA provides a reply.