After Russia-linked hack, Putin wades into TUE debate


Moscow (AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday took aim at the system of therapeutic use exemptions for athletes, after hackers linked to Russia broke into World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) files.

Moscow is still smarting after its track and field team and Paralympics squad were barred from the Rio Games this summer over evidence of systematic state-run doping across Russian sport.

Meeting with sports chiefs, Putin focused attention on the medical records of dozens of top global athletes leaked since last month by cyber-espionage group "Fancy Bears", which is believed to be Russian, after it hacked into a WADA database.

Russian officials have denied Moscow was behind the hack attack but have made a big play of the leaks.

They say the records show that the TUE system -- which allows competitors to take certain banned drugs for medical ailments -- is hypocritical.

WADA stresses that none of the high-profile athletes whose records were leaked had broken the rules.

"If things go on further this way only asthmatics or other athletes suffering from chronic diseases will win major sports events," Putin said in televised comments dripping with irony.

Among the athletes targeted by the leak of their WADA files were US Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, Venus and Serena Williams and celebrated British cyclists Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.

"Maybe we could put them into a special category, or their achievements can be recorded separately," Putin said of athletes granted the controversial TUEs.

Critics say that Moscow is trying to deflect attention from its own misdemeanours and continues to obfuscate after the lid was blown wide open on state-sponsored cheating in the country.

The hack on WADA was the latest in a string of high-profile Internet attacks linked to Moscow.

WADA said the group was from Russia and called on the country's government "to do everything in their power to make it stop".

Last week the United States officially accused the Russian government of directing cyber-attacks on American political organisations, saying the hacks were "intended to interfere with the US election process".

The Kremlin dismissed that claim as "rubbish".