A month after the closing ceremonies of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach is seeking the help of Russian authorities to solve the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) latest security problem.
Russian hacking group Fancy Bears breached WADA’s database and published the classified medical records of 66 athletes, including the newly minted four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles. The records showed that Biles tested positive for methylphenidate, which is the active ingredient in Ritalin, a medication commonly used to treat ADHD.
Biles addressed her positive test on Twitter stating, “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 hack was seen by many as retaliatory, as it followed the IOC’s partial ban of Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics and their complete ban of Russian Paralympic competitors, which were based on WADA investigations.
The hack was unsuccessful in producing new evidence of doping allegations. The breached data only contained therapeutic use exemptions, which allow athletes to take medicine that otherwise would’ve been banned. However, the hack has further drawn into question the effectiveness of WADA.
WADA, founded in 1999 by Canadian lawyer and IOC member Dick Pound, currently serves as the world’s leading independent anti-doping organization and works directly alongside the IOC.
The revelation of Russia’s state-sponsored doping program ahead of the Rio Olympics left the international athletics community in a state of shock and placed WADA in the difficult position of determining the severity of Russia’s punishment.
WADA’s proposed punishment of a sweeping ban on all Russian athletes from the Rio Games was ridiculous. Bach scathingly commented on the proposed solution saying: “Leaving aside that such a comparison is completely out of any proportion when it comes to the rules of sport, let us just for a moment consider the consequences of a ‘nuclear option.’”
Bach’s decision to request the help of the Russian Federation illustrates the very real security that threat hacking organizations like Fancy Bears present and the equally real need to protect athletes from being unfairly criticized and vilified.
If the data breaches continue, the future of WADA may depend on the information Russian authorities and the IOC find on the hackers. Many believe WADA to already be on its way out, and there may lie truth in the rumours that the IOC will introduce their own anti-doping organization.
The Olympic Summit on October 8 will re-establish the IOC’s anti-doping commitment, providing IOC members with the ability to participate in shaping the future model of WADA for years to come.