Danish Swim Federation Defends Blume’s Innocence After Medical Info Hack

The Danish Swimming Federation strongly supported the innocence of Olympic 50 free champ Pernille Blume after Russian hackers released her medical records last week.

The Russian group, known as Fancy Bear, has been hacking the World Anti-Doping Agency’s databases and publicizing medical info on Olympians, particularly those with legally filed therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs). Those TUEs allow athletes to take some substances that would otherwise be banned when those substances have been prescribed by a doctor to treat a medical condition.

Blume was named in the hacking group’s September 15 leak for having a therapeutic use exemption on file.

“It is deeply shocking to hear that it has been possible for attackers to force access to such private information, as is the case here,” said Danish Swimming Federation Director Pia Holmen. “It is a serious crime and I really hope that there will great efforts, partly to get hold of the people who are behind this and partly to ensure that in the future these databases will be, if possible, even harder to hack into.”

“I have to say that Pernille Blume has complete control of her medication and on the formal documents that require approval at any time when you are an athlete at this level,” Holmen continued in the federation’s press release. “This just makes it even more unfortunate that she should now be dragged into this matter. I cannot stress enough how innocent Pernille is, and how much I hope that the outside world will take this news to heart.”

Anti-Doping Denmark (which hosted a major anti-doping summit last week) also expressed its full support of Blume’s innocence, calling her a “pawn in a larger international game, in which powers in Russia appear to be trying to shift the focus from the documented systematic circumvention of the anti-doping rules that have taken place in Russia.”

Blume herself said she was upset that the leak might cause people to assume she is doping without reading past headlines:

“There are, of course, many headlines being written about it right now. Some of them just mention my name and something about doping, and I know very well that what we typically remember from media coverage, is just the headlines and then the rest does not matter. Of course, I am both worried and upset by it. I distance myself from doping and I really do not hope that some people might be left in doubt about it.”

Blume’s medical info was leaked last Thursday. As the federation was preparing its response, Fancy Bear leaked another wave of medical documents Saturday that included fellow Danish swimmer Jeanette OttesenA federation spokesperson acknowledged Ottesen’s inclusion in the leaks but said this first statement was only focused on Blume.

Ottesen spoke to Danish media last week about her inclusion in the medical records release, saying she has all her paperwork straight to take medication for asthma, and that the leak “does not touch me in any way.”

Ottesen also expressed some mild humor at the idea of the leak originating in Russia, which has been under fire for the past year about a massive state-sponsored systematic doping program across multiple sports.

“It’s funny that it comes from Russia,” she said. “It’s kind of fun.”

 

The full Danish Swimming Federation press release on Blume is below:

Anti Doping Denmark (ADD) and the Danish Swimming Federation has been informed by the world anti-doping Agency WADA, that Danish swimmer Pernille Blume’s medical data in WADA’s database ADAMS has been compromised by, according to WADA, a group of Russian hackers who gained access to the system.

The news has been received with dismay in the Danish Swimming Federation, who look upon this case very seriously.

– It is deeply shocking to hear that it has been possible for attackers to force access to such private information, as is the case here. It is a serious crime and I really hope that there will great efforts, partly to get hold of the people who are behind this and partly to ensure that in the future these databases will be, if possible, even harder to hack into, says the Danish Swimming Federation’s Director, Pia Holmen, who also wants to stress swimmer Pernille Blume’s innocence.

– I have to say that Pernille Blume has complete control of her medication and on the formal documents that require approval at any time when you are an athlete at this level. This just makes it even more unfortunate that she should now be dragged into this matter. I cannot stress enough how innocent Pernille is, and how much I hope that the outside world will take this news to heart, concludes Pia Holmen.

At Anti Doping Denmark they are looking at the matter with equal seriousness and have no doubt that the swimmer is merely a pawn in a political game:

– It is absolutely inexcusable that the hackers have used not only tactless, but also illegal methods to gain access to this data. There seems to be people from the outside who consciously want to undermine the system that we, as the anti-doping organisations and, above all, the athletes must be able to totally rely on, says Michael Ask, Director of ADD, and continues: – It is important to underline that Pernille Blume is completely innocent and she has acted completely by the book by applying for an exemption for the medication that she has an illness-related need for. I am very sorry that she has to go through this, where she has openly become a pawn in a larger international game, in which powers in Russia appear to be trying to shift the focus from the documented systematic circumvention of the anti-doping rules that have taken place in Russia.

For the athlete in the centre of the case, Pernille Blume, it has been a shocking experience to have sensitive personal data leaked.

– I think it is shocking that it has been possible for some people to hack into a system that full of very personal information. It should not be possible.

For 22-year-old Pernille Blume, it is a leak that is causing concern in relation to her reputation:

– There are, of course, many headlines being written about it right now. Some of them just mention my name and something about doping, and I know very well that what we typically remember from media coverage, is just the headlines and then the rest does not matter. Of course, I am both worried and upset by it. I distance myself from doping and I really do not hope that some people might be left in doubt about it, says Pernille Blume in closing.

According to WADA, a total of 29 athletes from eight countries over the past two days have had medical data from ADAMS published. Pernille Blume is currently the only athlete that Anti-Doping Denmark has been informed of, whose data has been compromised. ADD is following the ongoing situation.

WADA is responsible for the ADAMS data system, which, among others, athletes, national anti-doping organisations and specialised International Federations register data related to, among other things, doping control, whereabouts and, not least, the medical exemptions, TUE. According to WADA’s recent press release, the leak happened through an account of the International Olympic Committee, which has been setup up for the games in Rio.

About TUE

The medical information that the hackers have gained access to is the so-called TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption). TUE is an exemption for medication that is on the doping list, but which athletes need to take due to a specific illness, condition or injury that requires medical treatment.

Applications for TUE from athletes are assessed continuously by doctors, and it does not mean that an athlete who has a TUE has violated the rules. On the contrary, these athletes have disclosed their need to take medication and have followed the rules there are to apply for permission. In the assessment of the possibility of an exemption (TUE), an assessment is also included of the competitive advantage from taking a given preparation, so that it does not give the athlete an additional competitive advantage.

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27 Comments on "Danish Swim Federation Defends Blume’s Innocence After Medical Info Hack"

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Flowerpower

Im sorry, I have nothing against PB but it amazes me how many top level swimmers have TUE for asthma. Isnt that a terrible disadvantage for those who dont use it? Plus, isnt swimming suppose to help it?
For me is very unfair and seems to be a requirement to get to the top level. Sad

I’m not at all surprised.

FYI, there is a link between chlorine and asthma. It’s a bit of an occupational hazard. The chlorine gas accumulates on the surface of the water and you’re an athlete with any sort of sensitivity, it can – and does – trigger significant breathing problems.

In a word, no–it’s not a terrible disadvantage for those who don’t use it.

What would you prefer, that we have an “asthma” category in the Paralympic games for otherwise healthy athletes? Or that swimmers who have asthma not compete at all?

Asthma medication opens up closed airways; it does not increase lung capacity. As a result, it would have little or no effect for an athlete with healthy airways.

I had never experienced breathing problems throughout my swimming career, but in June I upped my training regimen and within 2 weeks I had problems taking deep breaths. I went to the doctor and explained what was going on and he said it was a fairly common thing for swimmers. So I assume because these Olympians spend so much time at and around pools they experience the same thing

There was a study done a while back that demonstrated that competitive swimmers had similar scar tissue on their lungs as chronic smokers of a similar age. Haven’t been able to find it for a while though- if anyone digs it up, please let me know.

You are likely referring to this article (though it is not quite what you are saying), http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3001541/

“Although lung volume measurement is not often used to determine endurance performance, increased total lung capacity has been shown to correlate with endurance training. Both swimming and long-distance running training result in increased total lung capacity.11–13 Results from other studies show that the same benefits can be derived from cigarette smoking as part of a syndrome known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).14,15 These changes are not universal in smoking, however. Even with lifetime smoking, there is only a 50% chance of developing COPD.”

1 in 10 people suffer from asthma, (i’m being conservative, if you include acute allergenic asthma, it’s a hell of a lot higher). So in theory of 900 swimmers at the Olympics, at least 90 would be asthma sufferers. So if anything, it is unusually low.

Actually I am surprised there aren’t more but maybe we haven’t heard the full list yet.

Also Connor Jaeger (methylprednisolone), Laszlo Cseh (formoterol), Sioban-Marie O’Connor (prednisolone, beclomethasone), Jeanette Otteson (terbutaline), Belmonte Garcia Mireia (salbutamol)

All for exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (asthma). A recent study out of University of Kent (Respirology. 2016 Jul 26. doi: 10.1111/resp.12859. Environmental influence on the prevalence and pattern of airway dysfunction in elite athletes) in which elite swimmers and boxers from Great Britain were studied found that exercise-induced bronchoconstriction was ninefold greater in swimmers compared with boxers. It’s thought that the chlorinated water plus sustained high ventilation increases susceptibility to EIB.

here is a study on terbutaline http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25113095

It says it increases muscular strength and maximal sprint performance.

Those were VERY supratherapeutic doses of inhaled terbutaline (like 15 times the usual dose for treating asthma). That said, there have been calls for dosing limits and urine monitoring for inhaled terbutaline to get TUE, because someone could be prescribed it an appropriate dose, but take 30 puffs instead of two and get a PED effect.

But terbutaline isn’t an OTC med and not what the athlete was on.

Ignore.

O’Connor has similar irritable bowel disease issues to what Kathleen Baker has and the pred. Is a first line treatment for accute flare ups of the condition.

O’Connor suffers from Ulcerative Colitis – Quite severe as it can lead to very difficult to treat infections. It kept her out of 2014 European’s and affected her at 2016 British Nationals.

I’m desperately trying to search all the medical backgrounds of all the swimmers named – Baker, O’Connor and Belmonte have been by far the easiest to pinpoint.

Laszlo interests me – In the UK, Formoterol is only used in asthma patients who are on long-term corticosteroids/bronchodilators, I haven’t seen Laszlo’s file but has he used any corticosteroids? Other than that, it’s only used regularly for chronic, life-threatening asthma and COPD. I’m aware usage varies country to country, but it just caught my eye.

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About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson just can’t stay away from the pool. A competitive career of almost two decades wasn’t enough for this Minnesotan, who continues to get his daily chlorine fix. A lifelong lover of writing, Jared now combines the two passions as Senior Reporter for SwimSwam.com, covering swimming at every level. He’s an …

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