Venus Williams has reacted to the release of her medical records, after a Russian cyber espionage group hacked a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) database at the Rio Olympics.
The group accessed confidential data from athletes such as the Williams sisters and gold medal-winning US gymnast Simone Biles, before releasing it on their website.
The information included medical exemptions which allow athletes to use normally forbidden substances.
“I was disappointed to learn today that my private, medical data has been compromised by hackers and published without my permission,” Williams said in a statement.
“I have followed the rules established under the Tennis Anti-Doping Program in applying for, and being granted, ‘therapeutic use exemptions.”
“I am one of the strongest supporters of maintaining the highest level of integrity in competitive sport and I have been highly disciplined in following the guidelines set,” Williams added.
WADA confirmed that a Russian cyber espionage group operator by the name of Tsar Team, also known as Fancy Bear, “illegally gained access” to WADA’s Anti-Doping database via an International Olympic Committee-created account.
The hacker group pledged allegiance to the Anomymous internet activist hacker group, saying “we stand for fair play and clean sport” and “we are going to tell you how Olympic medals are won.”
WADA said access was likely obtained by gaining possession of passwords through phishing of email accounts.
“WADA has been informed by law enforcement authorities that these attacks are originating out of Russia,” WADA director general Olivier Niggli said.
“Let it be known that these criminal acts are greatly compromising the effort by the global anti-doping community to re-establish trust in Russia further to the outcomes of the Agency’s independent McLaren Investigation Report.”
WADA investigator Richard McLaren said in his report in July that Russia conducted a wide-ranging and state-sponsored doping programme.
As a result, all Russian athletes have been banned from the current Paralympics, while Russia escaped a blanket ban from last month’s Olympics.
But its entire athletics team, apart from US-based long jumper Darya Klishina, was banned from the Rio Games in connection with two previous WADA reports.
These were based at least partly on information provided by whistleblower Yulia Stepanova and her husband who now live in a secret location in the United States.
Stepanova’s WADA information was hacked in early August and Niggli said: “WADA condemns these ongoing cyber-attacks that are being carried out in an attempt to undermine WADA and the global anti-doping system.”
Looking at the latest attack, he said: “WADA deeply regrets this situation and is very conscious of the threat that it represents to athletes whose confidential information has been divulged through this criminal act.”
WADA said it now planned to get in contact with the International Olympic Committee, international sports federations and national anti-doping organisations regarding the specific athletes affected.(dpa/NAN)