Hacker group Fancy Bears leaks details of 150 footballers caught doping in 2015

A hacker group going by the name Fancy Bears has released World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) documents that contain details of hundreds of athletes who failed dope tests in 2015 and 2016.

Fancy Bears has also released details of 25 footballers who were allowed to use potentially performance-enhancing drugs during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Fancy Bears is now claiming that WADA's claims of football being completely free of doping has been exposed. It added that 150 athletes were caught by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) in 2015 for using banned substances and the number rose to 200 in the following year. However, the said details were not released by WADA to the public.

Fancy Bears has also revealed that as many as 25 footballers were allowed to use potentially performance-enhancing drugs during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. These footballers included Argentinians Carlos Tevez, Juan Veron, Gabriel Heinze and Samuel Watter, German footballers Mario Gomez, Christian Trasch and Hans-Jörg Butt, Italian footballers Mauro Camoranesi and Vicenzo Iaquinta, Dutch footballer Dirk Kuyt, and New Zealand footballers Ryan Nelson and Tim Brown.

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A document containing the names of these footballers and the drugs that they used during the World Cup has been released by Fancy Bears, claiming it to be a major scandal. However, all of these players were awarded therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) during the event so that they could use such medication to cure long-term ailments like arthritis, asthma, joint inflammation and tooth pain.

“The TUE application process is thorough and designed to balance the need to provide athletes access to critical medication while protecting the rights of clean athletes to compete on a level playing field," said the US Anti-Doping Agency.

Of the 150 footballers who were caught using banned substances in 2015, nine of them were caught by UK Anti-Doping for using drugs like cocaine, amfetamine, salbutamol in excess quantity and other stimulants. A large number of footballers were also caught by FIFA as well as national anti-doping agencies in Mexico, Italy, Ukraine, Spain, and Brazil.

The FA has expressed 'disappointment' with the disclosure, saying: “The Football Association is disappointed that strictly confidential information has been released into the public domain. The details of ongoing cases cannot be discussed or disclosed until due legal process has been completed.

“In the event that an Anti-Doping Rule Violation has been committed, full details will be published on the FA website in line with the World Anti-Doping Code. Additionally, it is inappropriate to publish information relating to personal medical conditions or medications and we will work alongside our partners to ascertain the extent of this matter.”

It is not clear if Fancy Bears has any link to the Russian hacker group APT28 or Fancy Bear which is known for conducting cyber attacks and influencing elections in the United States and in several European countries. The Russian group hacked into the WADA database last year and released details of medications used by US gymnast Simone Biles and tennis star Serena Williams.

Experts believe that the WADA database hack could be in retaliation to an ongoing investigation being conducted by the FIFA on the alleged use of banned substances by the Russian national football team. Following large-scale use of banned drugs by Russian athletes in the recent past, there are also open calls to strip Russia of World Cup in 2018.

“Previous Fancy Bear dumps were almost always retaliatory and in response to sanctions from various international sports organizations. When the Russian athletic team was banned from participating in World Athletics Championships in London, embarrassing IAAF doping reports about major Western athletes were made public," said threat intelligence firm Insikt Group.

"As international pressure on Russia intensifies, with open calls to strip Russia of World Cup in 2018 and recent the FIFA investigation into suspected prohibited substance abuse of the national soccer team, today's release was almost guaranteed to surface," the firm added.