London (AFP) – British cyclist Chris Froome defended his right to a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) after becoming one of the latest athletes to have medical records with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) leaked by computer hackers.
Froome was one of five British athletes together with fellow cyclist Bradley Wiggins , golfer Charley Hull, rower Sam Townsend and rugby sevens player Heather Fisher to have confidential medical records made public without their consent.
There is no suggestion any of the five have broken doping rules.
On Tuesday, WADA announced that the Russian cyber-espionage group Tsar Team (APT28), also known as Fancy Bears, had broken into its Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS) database.
The hacking group released information gleaned from the files of sports stars including US Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and tennis champions Venus and Serena williams.
They said the leaks were “retaliation” for the agency’s role in uncovering “state-sponsored doping” in Russia which led the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), whose president is British middle-distance great Sebastian Coe, to ban the country’s track and field team from this year’s Olympic games in Rio.
The five British athletes were among a second batch of 25 sportsmen and women from eight countries to have their details leaked.
“‘Fancy Bear’ (aka Tsar Team (APT28)) have leaked another batch of confidential athlete data from WADA’s Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS),” WADA confirmed on Thursday.
TUEs exist to allow athletes with recognised medical conditions such as asthma, from which Rio gold medallist Wiggins suffers, to take drugs on WADA’s banned list for their ailment so they can compete in elite level sport.
In a statement issued Thursday, the 31-year-old Froome said: “I’ve openly discussed my TUEs with the media and have no issues with the leak which confirms my statements.
“In nine years as a professional I’ve twice required a TUE for exacerbated asthma, the last time was in 2014.”
– ‘Grossly unfair’ –
Long before these leaks, concerns had been raised across several sports as to whether the TUE process was being abused by athletes looking to gain a competitive edge over their rivals.
While that debate continues, United Kingdom Anti-Doping (UKAD) Nicole Sapstead issued a statement insisting all TUEs in Britain were issued on the basis of “medical need” only.
“UKAD strongly condemns actions of this nature and we are appalled that five members of Team GB have had their private data published illegally online,” she said.
“Not only does it undermine our work and the protection of clean sport, but it is grossly unfair to the athletes, whose personal data has been put at risk.
Sapstead added: “It is important to note that in the UK, applications for Therapeutic Use Exemptions, TUEs, are subject to a strict and independent process. Applications submitted to UKAD are assessed by at least three independent medics and are then referred to WADA, which has further independent oversight of applications.
“This robust process is in place to ensure that TUEs are granted based solely on medical need — they are not an indication of doping.
“They are there to support the clean athlete’s right to compete, despite a medical condition.”
On Wednesday, Russia’s sports minister denied there had been any Russian government involvement in the hacks.
“How can you prove that they are hackers from Russia? You blame Russia for everything,” Vitaly Mutko said through a translator on the sidelines of a congress of UEFA, European football’s governing body.