Social media can be a powerful tool, both to divide and to unite. When Simone Biles posted to her Twitter account that she has ADHD, and that she believes in a “clean sport” in which she has always “followed the rules, and will continue to do so,” the retweets numbered in the thousands. She also wrote that “having ADHD, and taking medicine for it, is nothing to be ashamed of.”
The Tuesday Tweets were in response to the release of private medical data by Russian hackers who were able to gain access to the Rio Olympics’ drug-testing database. Part of the leaked data included information that Biles was granted an exemption during the 2016 summer games for the use of a substance normally banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The WADA confirmed that a government hacking group accessed information related to confidential athlete health data and drug test results, which the group posted while ensuring that more leaks would be released at a later time. Fancybear.net, which exposed the documents, also noted that the additional information would include proof that “famous athletes” have been involved in the use of doping substances.
Hackers were able to obtain passwords to the database through a phishing scam, including a password belonging to Yuliya Stepanova, who was involved in exposing the doping among Russia’s athletes.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had previously banned Russian athletes from participating in the 2016 games after investigating a widespread doping scandal throughout that country.
The chief information officer at cybersecurity company ThreatConnect called the release of the leaked records a “digital temper tantrum” and noted that “they’re trying to sow doubt over the integrity of the individual athletes.”
Therapeutic use exemptions (or TUEs) are given by the WADA; in order to qualify for these exemptions, athletes must provide proof that the medications are used to treat specific health conditions. Stimulants are among the substances banned, but a medical waiver can be submitted by an athlete if he or she is taking a medication such as methylphenidate, commonly used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
The athletes who had their information released have been found to not be in the wrong, as no anti-doping rules were violated during the 2016 Rio Olympic games.
Biles, who currently holds the title of most decorated American gymnast, was a part of the Final Five during the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. At 19, she is a three-time world all-around and floor champion and has won a total of nineteen medals.
Other athletes impacted by the leak include tennis stars and sisters Serena and Venus Williams and women’s basketball player Elena Donne.
The leaked documents come amidst the recent release of over 30,000 emails from Colin Powell to journalists and friends, a June DNC computer breach, and a call in August by Democrats to the FBI requesting an investigation of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s potential connection to cyberattacks by Russian government hackers.
The case continues to be under investigation; a Russian spokesman denied the country’s involvement.