Russian hackers have this month released data online which includes the medical records of a number of elite athletes. The World Anti-Doping Agency (“WADA”) has stated that the hackers had managed to gain access to its management and administration database via an International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) account following the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Four-time Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah was among 8 Team GB Olympic champions whose data was hacked and subsequently posted online by the Russian hackers. There was no suggestion within any of the data published that any of the athletes in question had committed any direct wrongdoing.

The data revealed that Farah had taken what would ordinarily have been banned substances in 2008 and 2014 had he not had a valid Therapeutic Use Exemption (“TUE”) in place.  A TUE permits an athlete to take what would ordinarily be classed as a banned substance for medical needs.

TUE’s are seen in some quarters as somewhat controversial on the basis that athletes and medical experts may be able to readily and too easily obtain TUE’s to manipulate the system in order to gain special dispensation for substances that would ordinarily be banned.

Tour de France Champions and Olympic medallists Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome have also seen their data released online. The data illustrated that both Wiggins and Froome had previously been given permission under a TUE to take what would ordinarily have been banned substances.

Spanish tennis sensation Rafael Nadal was also a victim of the data release. Nadal who is a longstanding sufferer of patella tendinitis was shown to have taken the ordinarily banned drug betamethasone under a TUE. Such drug being largely associated with rheumatic disorders such as that which Nadal suffers from.

The attack itself raises much wider data protection issues amongst both athletes and high profile individuals in general who may have previously felt that their data was safe. WADA has also stated that it believes the attack has come as a direct result of the recently exposed state-sponsored doping in Russia. It is further considered that the recent attacks are an attempt to undermine the global anti-doping system itself following the banning of the entire Russian track and field squad from the recent Olympic Games following allegations of state sponsored doping.

Here at Farleys we have a specialist team of sports lawyers who deal with a variety of sporting issues ranging from complex Premier League contracts to disputes relating to anti-doping and data protection in athletics. Do not hesitate to contact us today to speak with one of our specialist solicitors for expert advice on any sports-related matter.