The 2016 Rio Olympics was riddled with political corruption and Olympian deceit. For the first time in a long time, people were questioning the ethics of the Olympic committee and of the athletes participating.
As Brazil’s then-president Dilma Rousseff was facing impeachment and Ryan Lochte and crew were vandalizing a gas station restroom, the Russian cybercrime ring Fancy Bears were working hard to infiltrate the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for incriminating evidence of cheating by all-star athletes. They succeeded, releasing information on the much beloved gymnast Simone Biles and tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. Why did Fancy Bear go after WADA, and did it hurt our athletes’ public image?
Released Records, Damaged Image?
It has been theorized that the reason behind the Fancy Bears breach against WADA was to distract the world stage from Russia’s inherent abuse of performance-enhancing drugs, with many of their athletes banned from participating in the 2016 games.
Before the WADA breach and other humiliations that rocked the Rio Olympics, there hadn’t been such a massive doping scandal since Germany was found to have been injecting their young athletes with illegal steroids all the way back during the Cold War. In 2016 doping allegations had been made and proven once more, with many Russian world-class athletes disqualified from the games as a result. This proved an embarrassment for the country, and Fancy Bears took it upon themselves to show that even our favorite Olympic darlings were hiding something.
In a statement posted on the Fancy Bears website the hacking group stated that:
“As predicted, the USA dominated the 2016 Olympics medal count. [After] detailed studying of the hacked WADA databases we figured out that dozens of American athletes had tested positive. The [American] Rio Olympic medalists regularly used illicit strong drugs justified by certificates of approval for therapeutic use. In other words, they just got their licenses for doping. This is other evidence that WADA and IOC’s Medical and Scientific Department are corrupt and deceitful.”
Was the Russian hacking group truly trying to show that no athlete can be found clean, or were they trying to take away earned medals by blemishing the images of some of 2016’s favorite athletes? Through the hack it was learned that Simone Biles tested positive for a banned substance while she was competing in Rio. However, she was allowed to use the banned substance because she had acquired a therapeutic use exemption. For those unfamiliar, a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) is a note from the athlete’s physician stating that the athlete is taking the drug for legitimate medical reasons, not as a way to enhance their athletic performance.
As noted by their message, Fancy Bears deems TUE as a more strategic way of cheating. By their reasoning, anyone can get a doctor’s note proclaiming that the drugs they are using are a medical necessity, even if in actuality, they are not.
When news first broke about the WADA cybersecurity breach people were (naturally) upset, including of course the athletes. Their integrity was being called into question and rumor had it that the medals they won were not won fair and square. It was learned that Biles takes (and has for much of her life) ADHD medication.
Contrary to what the Fancy Bears cybercriminal group was hoping to get out of the breach, The U.S. stuck by Biles, firmly believing she earned her medals for being an outstanding athlete, not a doping athlete. In fact, the public perception of Fancy Bears is a negative one, as it’s now felt that they’re just a bunch of angry pouters upset that their cheating athletes weren’t given a chance to compete, and that if they can’t win, no one else can either.
Hacking happens at all levels, not just the world stage. If information were released from your medical practice around town about your patients, do you think everyone would band together and say it’s okay? No, it wouldn’t happen. Learn from WADA and protect your practice with data breach insurance, you’ll be grateful you did.