Alistair Brownlee's medical data leaked online
Double Olympic triathlon champion Alistair Brownlee is the latest British sports star to have his medical data leaked online by Russian computer hackers the Fancy Bears.
The sixth batch of stolen therapeutic use exemption (TUE) forms belongs to 20 athletes from 14 different countries, which means 127 athletes have now been named by the Fancy Bears over the last three weeks.
The 28-year-old Brownlee’s TUE - effectively a doctor’s note enabling him to take medication that would normally be banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency - was for a two-day course of acetazolamide in October 2013.
Acetazolamide, or Diamox as it is more commonly known, is used to treat altitude sickness or glaucoma but as a diuretic it has been used by some athletes as a masking agent.
“I have had one TUE in my career in October 2013 for Diamox to treat altitude sickness while climbing Kilimanjaro,” Brownlee said on his official Twitter account.
“Slightly embarrassing that someone as fit as me suffered from altitude sickness but thankfully @jonny_brownlee was there to carry me.”
As with the other 126 athletes whose TUEs have been hacked from WADA’s database, there is no suggestion of Brownlee, a four-time world champion, breaking any anti-doping rules.
In fact, this latest batch from the Fancy Bears is by some margin the least interesting, as it includes a case of a leading rower from New Zealand needing medication for his haemorrhoids and several athletes on asthma medication.
Previous names to have their medical data released in this way include British cycling stars Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins, American tennis sisters Serena and Venus Williams, British distance runner Mo Farah and Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal.
Brownlee, of Leeds, who is enjoying a golden period of popularity along with his brother and fellow triathlete Jonathan, is the 24th British sports star to be named.
The Fancy Bears, who are believed to have targeted WADA’s database in retaliation for the investigations that exposed Russia’s state-sponsored doping programme, have been widely condemned by anti-doping groups for breaching data protection laws and falsely accusing innocent athletes of cheating.
But their actions have drawn attention to an area that some anti-doping experts have suggested is open to abuse, with the debate on the timing of three of Wiggins’ TUEs still raging within cycling circles.
WADA, however, has defended the TUE process, saying it is essential to allow athletes with medical conditions to compete at the highest level, while Wiggins has denied that he took advantage of the system to gain a physical benefit beyond dealing with a long-standing and debilitating pollen allergy.