When you hear hackers break into a well known organisation’s database, you can be sure you are in for some interesting news. Now it was World Anti-Doping Agency’s turn to be “looked into”.
Russian hackers, known as “Fancy Bears” broke into World Anti-Doping Agency database and publicly posted confidential medical information online for anyone to see. The targets were US Female athletes, who were competing in Olympic games in Rio. The names of the Russian hackers exposed information of the following athletes ; Simone Biles, Serena Williams and Venus Williams, as well as Elena Delle Donne. The records they were looking for were “therapeutic use exemptions”. Those records show which athletes are allowed to use substances which are banned, if there is a verified medical need. In other words, it shows which athletes use prohibited drugs with permission of WADA.
The (now) public data shows BIles, the 4 time gold medallist tested positive for methylphenidate or in other words Ritalin on Aug 11th, 14th, 15th and 16th. Methylphenidate or Ritalin which is mostly known by his effect on central nervous system and is used by people suffering from ADHD and abused by mostly students, as it increases your dopamine levels in your brain thus stimulation attention and motivation circuits that enhance one’s ability to focus. Biles was issued certificates that approved one-daily usage of the drug (which is 15mg/day) for therapeutic use in September 2012 and September 2013. In December 2013 Biles certificate was renewed, issuing an increase in dosage to 25mg and extending the certificate by 4 years (December 2014-December 2018). Biles responded on Twitter with a statement
“I have ADHD and I have taken Medicine for it since I was a kid. 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 Williams sisters did not test positive in Rio, according to info leaked by hackers. But were given multiple certificates of approval from International Tennis Federation, for periods since 2010.
Serena Williams was approved for using prednisolone for 6 days in June 2015. In addition, she was also approved to using methylprednisolone, hydromorphone and oxycodone. Venus, on the other hand had been using triamcinolone, prednisone, formoterol and prednisolone in period between 2010-2013.
ITF cautioned against “unjustified conclusions” with the following statement from David Haggerty, president of ITF:”All TUEs granted under the Tennis Anti-Doping Program are for the legitimate therapeutic use of medications and are in no way indicative of doping or a breach of the anti-doping rules.”
Delle Donne, female basketball player, who averaged 8.6 ppg as US won the gold medal in women’s basketball tested positive for using amphetamine on 20th of August. But she (of course) also had a certificate of approval, authorized by FIBA. The certificate authorized her to use the drug on 4 year period from 7th of August 2014 to 7th of August 2018. In addition, she was is permitted using hydrocortisone since 2014, until 2018. As other athletes, Delle Donne also shared her thoughts on Twitter with the following statement:
“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 exception for.”
USADA CEO Travis Tygart has stepped in athlete’s side, justifying the usage of prohibited drugs and denying the assumptions, they are “cheating”.
“The athletes haven’t (been cheating). 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.”
WADA’s director Olivier Niggli showed great concerns in the act committed by the Russian hackers.
“These criminal acts are greatly compromising the effort by the global anti-doping community to re-establish trust in Russia,”
Spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected WADA’s statement, which blamed Russia for the accident.
“There can be no talk about any official or government involvement, any involvement of Russian agencies in those actions. It’s absolutely out of the question,”
“Such unfounded accusations don’t befit any organization, if they aren’t backed by substance.”.
This “event” lifted a lot of dust as it is very compromising and it might tarnish the reputation of clean athletes, Despite International Olympic Committee said, these athletes did not violate any anti–doping rules during Olympic games in Rio 2016, there will always be people on the internet targeting the athletes, thus having a negative effect on their name.
What and who to believe in this case is really a case of personal opinion. The fact that these athletes did in fact were allowed to use drugs, prohibited to others cannot be denied. Did it help them in such a way, they could outperform other athletes, or did it only help them with their conditions, to be on the same level as “healthy” athletes is a matter of debate. Personally, I cannot pick sides, but I am sure this will be a topic of discussion for quite some time now.