Former World No. 1 Venus Williams and younger sister Serena were among the athletes whose medical histories were revealed when Russian hacking group Fancy Bears launched an attack on the website of WADA, or the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The hacks, which WADA confirmed were still happening, revealed medical issues both the former top-ranked women’s players had faced, or were facing, and the medication they had been taking to combat them.
Now, the older Williams sister has issued a statement in reaction to the hacks.
In an official release she said:
"I was disappointed to learn today that my private, medical data has been compromised by hackers and published without my permission. I have followed the rules established under the Tennis Anti-Doping Program in applying for, and being granted, 'therapeutic use exemptions'.
"The applications for TUEs under the Tennis Anti-Doping program require a strict process for approval which I have adhered to when serious medical conditions have occurred. The exemptions posted in the hacked report are reviewed by an anonymous, independent group of doctors, and approved for legitimate medical reasons. I am one of the strongest supporters of maintaining the highest level of integrity in competitive sport and I have been highly disciplined in following the guidelines set by WADA, USADA, the ITF and collectively the Tennis Anti-Doping Program."
It was also revealed what TUEs – or Therapeutic Use Exemptions – athletes had been granted. A TUE permits a player to use a medication or substance that is otherwise banned, without violating WADA – and their sport's – anti-doping rules.
Venus, who suffers from an autoimmune disorder known as Sjogren’s Syndrome, currently deals with it while on the WTA tour; she is permitted to use the otherwise banned drugs prednisone, prednisolone, triamcinolone and formoterol.
The 36-year-old also returned from surgery following her comeback, and may have received a TUE for that purpose.
Younger sister Serena, who recently lost her World No. 1 ranking to US Open winner Angelique Kerber, was revealed to have permission to take oxycodone, hydromorphone, prednisone and methylprednisolone in 2010, 2014 and 2015; each of which are on the WADA list of banned substances. Williams has, however, received permission from an ITF doctor – Dr. Stuart Miller, in pain management.
The TUE is not simply dispensation by WADA or in the case of the Williams sisters, the ITF, to use a substance. Organizations have strict, very specific rules athletes must adhere to in the use of the drugs they have received medical dispensation for – which was the case with both Venus and Serena Williams.
Also accused in the hack was American gold-medal winning gymnast Simone Biles, who then went on to reveal she was on long-term medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, with which she had been diagnosed with years earlier.