The Kremlin on Thursday said it was ready to help the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in fighting cybercrime after the agency urged Russia to stop hacks that have leaked medical records of star athletes.
“If we’re talking about a request for help, then no question, if we receive such an appeal,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists in a conference call.
“Russia consistently backs fighting cybercrime, consistently invites all states and international organisations to cooperate in this area, and this position of Russia is well known,” Peskov said.
On Tuesday, WADA announced that 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 to the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) ban on the country’s track and field team from this year’s Olympic Games in Rio.
There is no suggestion that any of the athletes whose records have been leaked have broken the rules.
WADA director general Olivier Niggli said the hacking of the agency would hamper Russian efforts to reintegrate into the sports world.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded at a televised briefing on Thursday, saying it was wrong to connect the issue of cybercrime with Russia’s attempts to overcome the massive doping scandal around its athletes.
“You can’t link up the battle with cybercrime with redressing the rights of athletes, these are questions that fall into different categories,” Zakharova said.
In a hostile statement she accused WADA of sowing confusion, saying that “no one understands the principles behind the actions and functioning of this organisation”.
WADA needs to “develop clear criteria for its work that everyone understands, based on international law, and not on some very strange statements,” she said.
She reiterated that Russia denies any role in the hacks, saying: “For Russia just like for the rest of the world, hackers and hacking are outside the law.”
“We can influence this process using laws, but we have no other way to influence the hackers,” she stressed.
Three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome, whose medical records were made public on Thursday, defended his right to a therapeutic use exemption (TUE).
“I’ve openly discussed my TUEs with the media and have no issues with the leak which confirms my statements,” the 31-year-old said in a statement.
“In nine years as a professional I’ve twice required a TUE for exacerbated asthma, the last time was in 2014.”
TUEs exist to allow athletes with recognised medical conditions such as asthma, from which Rio gold medal-winning cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins suffers, to take drugs on WADA’s banned list for their ailment so they can compete in elite level sport.