Justice Department charges Russians with hacking tied to Fancy Bears doping attacks

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The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday charged seven Russian intelligence officers with hacking anti-doping agencies, tied to the Fancy Bears group that went public two years ago, and other organizations hours after Western officials leveled new accusations against Moscow’s secretive GRU military spy agency.

“This began with a disclosure of Russian state-sponsored doping programs for its athletes. In other words, Russia cheated,” U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said. “They cheated, they got caught, they were banned from the Olympics, they were mad, and they retaliated. And in retaliating, they broke the law, so they are criminals.”

A group that called itself Fancy Bears began posting medical records of Olympians online in 2016. WADA previously said Fancy Bears originated in Russia.

The Department of Justice said Fancy Bears released stolen information that included private or medical information of approximately 250 athletes from almost 30 countries. Fancy Bears posted medical data of Simone BilesVenus WilliamsBradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, among others, in 2016.

Victims also included “U.S. and international anti-doping agencies such as WADA, USADA, CCES [Canada’s anti-doping agency], the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the International Association of Athletics Federation [IAAF, track and field’s international governing body], FIFA and as many as 35 other anti-doping or sporting federations,” Brady said.

The U.S. indictment said that the GRU targeted its victims because they had publicly supported a ban on Russian athletes in international sports competitions and because they had condemned Russia’s state-sponsored athlete doping program.

“Using social media accounts and other infrastructure acquired and maintained by GRU Unit 74455 in Russia, the conspiracy thereafter publicly released selected items of stolen information, in many cases in a manner that did not accurately reflect their original form, under the false auspices of a hacktivist group calling itself the ‘Fancy Bears’ Hack Team,'” according to the Department of Justice. “As part of its influence and disinformation efforts, the Fancy Bears’ Hack Team engaged in a concerted effort to draw media attention to the leaks through a proactive outreach campaign. The conspirators exchanged e-mails and private messages with approximately 186 reporters in an apparent attempt to amplify the exposure and effect of their message.”

Throughout its doping scandals, Russia has tried to stay close to the International Olympic Committee, but the indictment alleges the IOC wasn’t immune from attack.

Two hackers allegedly traveled to the Rio Olympics to steal information from sports officials via their Wi-Fi networks. The Dutch Ministry of Defense even released a photo showing one of the accused posing for a picture at an Olympic arena.

The indictment says hackers targeted the beachfront hotel where Olympic doping cases were heard, including some involving leading Russian athletes, and intercepted an IOC anti-doping official’s username and password to break into WADA’s files.

Eventually, the IOC banned Russia from the PyeongChang Olympics — its athletes were allowed to apply to participate as neutrals — as punishment for doping offenses in Sochi four years earlier.

The impact on the U.S. included athletes — some world-famous — whose medical data was released even where there was no evidence they’d done anything wrong.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency was a prime target. As USADA’s CEO Travis Tygart issued stinging attacks on Russian athletes’ drug use, science director Matthew Fedoruk’s email was hacked at the 2016 Olympics. The Fancy Bear website then posted medical data of dozens of U.S.-based athletes who’d asked permission to use otherwise-banned substances for medical reasons.

Tygart called’s indictments it “a reassuring outcome for clean athletes everywhere, especially those whose private information was leaked as a result of the despicable and illegal hacking activity.”

“Let’s not forget that these cyber attacks, which we now know were perpetuated by officials in the Russian government, illegally obtained information during the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio to try to smear innocent athletes’ reputations and make it look like they did something wrong, when in fact they did everything right,” Tygart said in a statement. “These illegal and malicious acts were a desperate attempt to divert attention away from Russia’s state-sponsored doping program and were part of a broader scheme of corrupt and unethical behavior by the Russian government to manipulate international Olympic sport, of which the world now has the incontestable facts: a system that was abusing its own athletes with an institutionalized doping program has now been indicted for perpetrating cyber-attacks on innocent athletes from around the world while yet again trying to win by any means.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry fired back with its own accusations Thursday, accusing USADA of going easy on U.S. dopers and seeking to sideline their Russian rivals.

“American pretentions to leading the fight for clean sport are no more than unfair competition,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, speaking after British and Dutch officials outlined the hacking accusations, but before the full U.S. indictment was published.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

MORE: Russia appeals to overturn track and field ban

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Scotty James wins fifth X Games snowboard halfpipe title

Scotty James
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Scotty James doesn’t have Olympic gold, but he remains king of the X Games halfpipe.

James, the Australian snowboarder who took bronze and silver at the last two Olympics, earned his fifth Aspen gold, repeating as champ of the biggest annual contest under falling snow in the Colorado Rockies. Only the retired Shaun White has more X Games men’s snowboard halfpipe titles with eight.

Nobody on Friday night attempted a triple cork, which was first done in competition by Japan’s Ayumu Hirano last season en route to the Olympic title. Hirano placed sixth Friday.

“It was a tough night, pretty interesting conditions,” James said. “Had to adjust the game plan. The show goes on.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression over the course of a three-run jam session for the entire field rather than scoring individual runs.

Earlier, Olympic gold medalist Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand repeated as women’s snowboard slopestyle champion, passing Olympic bronze medalist Tess Coady of Australia on the final run of the competition. Sadowski-Synnott, the only snowboarder or skier to win Olympic, world and X Games slopestyle titles, capped her finale with back-to-back 900s.

The competition lacked 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion Jamie Anderson, who announced her pregnancy last month.

Canada’s Megan Oldham landed the first triple cork in women’s ski big air competition history to beat Olympic silver medalist Tess Ledeux of France, according to commentators. Oldham, a 21-year-old ex-gymnast, was fourth at the Olympics.

Eileen Gu, the Olympic champion from China, did not compete but is entered in halfpipe and slopestyle later this weekend.

ON HER TURF: U.S. freeskier Maggie Voisin on grief, loss, finding motivation

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Isabeau Levito wins U.S. figure skating title at age 15, followed by comeback stories

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Isabeau Levito won her first U.S. figure skating title at age 15, cementing her status as the new leading American woman to open the new Olympic cycle.

Levito, the world junior champion, tallied 223.33 points between two strong programs in San Jose, California. She distanced two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022 and scored 213.12.

Tennell was just two hundredths behind Levito after Thursday’s short but had multiple jumping errors in the free skate.

Levito followed her as last to go in the free and nailed the most pressure-packed performance of her young career, including the hardest jump combination done of the entire field. She didn’t receive a single negative mark from a judge for her 19 technical elements in her two programs.

Moments later, she was in tears backstage.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

“I was just so proud of myself for staying so calm and staying so focused, doing exactly what I aimed to do,” Levito, who hasn’t finished off the podium in more than 20 events dating to November 2016, said on NBC. “I’m ready to start bouncing off the walls.”

Amber Glenn, 23, placed third and will likely become the oldest U.S. women’s singles skater to make her world championships debut in at least 45 years. Glenn botched her 11th attempt to join the list of U.S. women to land a clean triple Axel (tally according to Skatingscores.com) but still moved up from fourth after the short program, passing Starr Andrews.

Last year, Glenn entered nationals as the fourth-ranked U.S. woman and a hopeful for the three-woman Olympic team. She placed 14th in the short program, competing unknowingly with COVID-19, then tested positive and withdrew before the free skate.

In 2021, Glenn was the U.S. silver medalist, yet passed over for a spot on the two-woman world team in favor of the more experienced Karen Chen, who finished 35 hundredths behind Glenn at those nationals.

Levito, Tennell and Glenn are expected to make up the team for March’s world championships, decided by a committee.

Gracie Gold, a two-time U.S. champion who was fifth after the short program, popped a pair of planned triple Lutzes and dropped to eighth.

None of the three 2022 U.S. Olympians competed. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell retired. Chen is a student at Cornell and might not return.

Nationals continue Saturday with the free dance and pairs’ free skate, live on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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