The U.S. Department of Justice indicted seven Russian intelligence officials this week, accusing them of hacking and wire fraud as part of a campaign to obtain information about athletes and selectively spread that information in an attempt to make it look like non-Russian athletes were cheating the anti-doping system.
Vox reports that seven officers in the Russian intelligence agency GRU were indicted Thursday on charges of computer hacking, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering. Per the Vox story, U.S. prosecutors believe the Russian officials targeted athletes and anti-doping organizations in the U.S., Canada and Europe in an attempt at revenge against nations and agencies that exposed Russia’s state-sponsored doping regime.
Prosecutors say the Russian spies hoped to obtain information about athletes and anti-doping agencies in order to run a manipulation campaign, spreading false or selective information to make it appear that non-Russian athletes were using banned substances and cheating the anti-doping system. U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in the Vox piece that the hackers’ goal was to “undermine the integrity of the Olympics and other games.”
The Washington Post reports that three of the seven officials indicted had already been indicted on charges that they conspired to interfere in the U.S.’s 2016 presidential election. The Department of Justice said in the Post piece that they weren’t satisfied just to expose the alleged hacking: “We seek to arrest those who broke the law,” said U.S. attorney Scott Brady. “We want to bring them to Pittsburgh. We want them to stand trial. And we want to put them in jail.”
The Post story goes into detail about the alleged Russian scheme. The Post reports that days after the McLaren Report alleged a massive, state-sponsored doping program in Russia, GRU officials flew to Rio to “hack the WiFi networks used by anti-doping officials in their hotels and elsewhere.” The Russian officials were able to steal the log-in and password of a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency official, the Post reports. A few months later, the report says, Russian officials flew to a WADA conference in Switzerland, stealing a Canadian official’s credentials.
The Post report also says the Russians later leaked the information online under the name “Fancy Bear,” the Russian hacking group that leaked Therapeutic Use Exemption information, alleging that non-Russian athletes were cheating the anti-doping system through legally-obtained permits to use otherwise-banned substances for medical reasons.