FIFA condemns Fancy Bears hack and refuses to dance to their tune

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By Andrew Warshaw

August 23 – FIFA has been quick to condemn the notorious hacking group Fancy Bears for releasing documents alleging that 25 players were allowed to take prohibited substances for medical reasons – known as Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) – at the 2010 World Cup.

The group also claimed that 160 players worldwide failed drugs tests in 2015, rising to 200 the following year though none were identified.

TUEs allow athletes to use otherwise banned substances to treat existing medical conditions but some experts believe they are administered when not really needed medically but when they could provide a competitive advantage.

Argentina. Germany, the Netherlands, Algeria, Chile, Ivory Coast, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States all have players cited on the Fancy Bears TUEs list, the first time the group has highlighted footballers.

The newly-leaked documents, which claim there were nine failed drugs tests in Britain connected to football in 2015, purport to suggest the game is rife with dopers. But some experts believe the group, widely believed to act in the interests of the Russian authorities, is simply trying to deflect attention away from the World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned McLaren report into state-sponsored doping in Russia.

FIFA confirmed back in June that in conjunction with WADA it was still investigating Canadian law professor and sports lawyer Dr Richard McLaren’s claims that footballers were among the 1,000-plus athletes mentioned in his report amid unconfirmed reports that Russia’s 2014 World Cup squad is under investigation for doping.

FIFA did not mince its words in denouncing Fancy Bears’ operation.

“FIFA condemns in the strongest terms the publication by the Fancy Bears group of information obtained illegally, particularly personal and medical data from athletes,” a FIFA statement said.

“The release of such information constitutes a clear violation of the athletes’ privacy and puts at risk the ongoing fight against doping.”

“All potential violations of the anti-doping regulations are handled by FIFA in accordance with WADA regulations. We have no further comment at this stage.”

WADA has denied that Fancy bears’ information was obtained from a hack into their system.

“The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is aware that, today, cyber espionage group ‘Fancy Bear’ once again released information; in particular, confidential athlete data regarding Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) on its website,” a statement read.

“As WADA takes data privacy very seriously, the Agency immediately examined the information; and, was quickly able to determine that it is not housed in WADA’s Anti-Doping Administration & Management System (ADAMS).

“Stakeholders can rest assured that ADAMS remains secure. We take this opportunity to reiterate that the TUE process is a means by which an athlete can obtain approval to use a prescribed prohibited substance or method for the treatment of a legitimate medical condition.

“The TUE program is a rigorous and necessary part of elite sport, which has overwhelming acceptance from athletes, physicians and all anti-doping stakeholders worldwide.

“This criminal activity undertaken by the cyber espionage group, which seeks to undermine the TUE program and the work of WADA and its partners in the protection of clean sport, is a clear violation of athletes’ rights.”

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