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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Dmitriy Balandin, surprise Olympic swimming champion, retires

Dmitriy Balandin
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Dmitriy Balandin, the Kazakh swimmer who pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2016 Rio Olympics, retired at age 27.

“Today I would like to announce the end of my sports career,” Balandin said last week, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee. “I am still inspired. A new phase of my life begins. I have a lot of cool projects in my head that will soon be implemented.”

Balandin reportedly has coaching aspirations.

In 2016, he won the Olympic men’s 200m breaststroke out of lane eight as the last qualifier into the final. He edged American Josh Prenot by seven hundredths of a second and became Kazakhstan’s first Olympic swimming medalist.

He followed that up with 11th- and 17th-place finishes in the breaststrokes in Tokyo last year.

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U.S. women’s basketball team scores most points in FIBA World Cup history

Brionna Jones
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SYDNEY — A’ja Wilson and the U.S. put on quite a show, breaking the World Cup scoring mark in a record rout of South Korea.

Brionna Jones scored 24 points and Wilson added 20 to help the U.S. beat South Korea 145-69 on Monday. Shakira Austin’s layup with 9 seconds left helped the Americans break Brazil’s record of 143 points set in 1990.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a team that can score the basketball like this,” Wilson said. “This is crazy, we put up 145 points. I think when you look at us and just knowing how talented we are, we just came together and we play together very, very well.”

The U.S. always has the most talented and deepest roster of any team in the World Cup with 12 WNBA stars on the roster. Still, the Americans had never come close to that sort of offensive output during it’s storied World Cup history. The previous team record was 119 points against Angola in 2014 and China in 2006. The scoring margin was also the biggest in U.S. history as well surpassing the 75-point win over Angola in 2014.

The win was also the 26th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals when they fell to Russia. The U.S. also won 26 in a row from 1994-2006. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-1986.

MORE: FIBA World Cup Results

What started with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles has now been passed on to Breanna Stewart and Wilson. A legacy of excellence that doesn’t look like it’s ending anytime soon.

The U.S. (4-0), which has been playing stellar defense, was challenged by South Korea early. The teams were trading baskets for the first 8 minutes and it was tied at 21 before the Americans took control, scoring the final 11 points of the period.

Kahleah Copper came off the bench for the first time of the tournament and scored six points during that spurt. The Americans kept the streak going to start the second quarter, scoring nine of the first 11 points to put the game away.

By the time the game reached the half the U.S. was up 68-40, including scoring 44 points in the paint against the undersized Koreans.

“We were trying to get the ball inside,” Jones said. “We had an advantage there.”

The only suspense in the second half was how many records the Americans could break. They took down their own scoring mark on Sabrina Ionescu’s 3-pointer with 6:15 left in the game and kept putting up points with Austin’s layup capping off the contest.

Other records broken on Monday included the 62 field goals made, 36 assists and 94 points in the paint.

“Our size was a problem for them and I thought we shared the ball,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The Americans were well rested for the game after having their first day off of the tournament on Sunday.

Despite the rout, South Korea (1-3) can still advance to the quarterfinals with a win over Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

Leeseul Kang, who had 37 points in a win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, scored 10 points. Hyejin Park had 17 to lead the team.

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