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Drysdale, Burling medical data leaked

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 3/10/2016

New Zealand Olympic champions Mahe Drysdale and Peter Burling have had their medical data leaked online by Russian computer hackers the Fancy Bears.

The pair, who won gold medals in Rio, are the first Kiwis to have their information released.

It comes as the sixth batch of therapeutic use exemption (TUE) forms stolen from the World Anti-Doping Agency belonging to 20 athletes from 14 different countries were revealed.

The 37-year-old Drysdale, who defended his Beijing single sculls title in a photo-finish, was given four TUEs in a 17-month period between April 2015 and August of this year.

He was given permission to take fluocortolone, a topical steriod, used to treat hemorrhoids.

Burling, who won the sailing 49er title in Rio with Blair Tuke, is another high-profile inclusion.

He was given an exemption to use remifentanil in September last year after having his wisdom teeth removed.

The duo now join the list of 127 athletes named by the Fancy Bears over the last three weeks.

Among the high-profile names in the latest batch released is Britain's Rio triathlon champion Alistair Brownlee who had 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.

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.

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.

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.

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