The World Anti-Doping Agency says Russian hackers stole confidential medical records of US athletes who participated in last month’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and published them on the internet.
The Russian hacker group is also suspected of having earlier breached the US Democratic National Committee’s computers and published their contents, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a WADA statement.
The US government is investigating the case because there is evidence that the hackers are linked to the Russian government, though details are still sketchy, Reuters reported, citing two sources familiar with the probe.
Russian news agencies quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying any possible Russian government or secret service participation in the hacking was out of the question.
WADA attributed the attack to Tsar Team, a hacking group widely known as APT28 and Fancy Bear by US cyber-security researchers, Reuters said.
The organization said the hackers used a “spearfishing” technique to get passwords through email accounts, according to the Journal.
WADA’s disclosure came shortly after hackers released documents on a website Tuesday that they claimed showed the use of performance-enhancing drugs by top US athletes, though they acknowledged the athletes didn’t break any rules.
Data posted on www.fancybear.net appeared to be about four US athletes: gymnast Simone Biles, basketball player Elena Delle Donne, and tennis stars Serena Williams and Venus Williams.
The site said it planned disclosing information about athletes from other nations in the future.
The documents posted on the website are known as Therapeutic Use Exemptions, or TUEs, which are issued by sports federations and national anti-doping organizations to allow athletes to take certain substances.
The leak prompted Biles to disclose on Twitter that she has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
“I have ADHD and I have taken medicine for it since I was a kid,” Biles said. “Please know, I believe in clean sport, have always followed the rules, and will continue to do so as fair play is critical to sport and is very important to me.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), US Anti-Doping Agency, International Tennis Federation and USA Gymnastics all issued statements saying that athletes whose data had been released had done nothing wrong.
The IOC condemned the leak as an attempt to tarnish the reputation of clean athletes.
“The IOC can confirm, however, that the athletes mentioned did not violate any anti-doping rules during the Olympic Games Rio 2016,” the group said in a statement.
WADA director general Olivier Niggli said the hacking incident was “greatly compromising the effort by the global anti-doping community to re-establish trust in Russia”, following release of the McLaren Investigation Report.
The independent McLaren report charged that Russians had swapped positive doping samples for clean ones during the Sochi winter Games, with the support of the Russian secret service.
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