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In Brief: World Anti-Doping Agency confirms Russian hack of Rio Olympic drug-testing database

Ex-Gonzaga star Courtney Vandersloot shouts to Chicago Sky teammates during Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Lynx. (John Konstantaras / Associated Press)
Ex-Gonzaga star Courtney Vandersloot shouts to Chicago Sky teammates during Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Lynx. (John Konstantaras / Associated Press)
From staff and wire reports

Doping: The World Anti-Doping Agency said Tuesday that a Russian government hacking group had gained access to a database containing drug-test results and confidential medical data from last month’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. On Monday, the group began posting confidential information about noteworthy U.S. Olympic athletes – tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, four-time gymnastics gold medalist Simone Biles and women’s basketball standout Elena Delle Donne – and promised more leaks would be forthcoming.

WADA said in a statement that the hacking group was able to access passwords to its Rio Olympic database via spear-phishing, the practice by which computers are infected after a user opens an e-mail that is thought to be from a trusted source.

“WADA deeply regrets this situation and is very conscious of the threat that it represents to athletes whose confidential information has been divulged through this criminal act,” Director General Olivier Niggli said in the statement. “We are reaching out to stakeholders … regarding the specific athletes impacted.”

The data release comes as the FBI is conducting a broad investigation into Russian government hacking and influence operations in the United States, including a possible effort to undermine confidence in the U.S. elections. The latest incident appears to be part of a larger campaign of strategic releases of hacked material by the Russian government to embarrass victims or raise doubts about their integrity, analysts said.

It comes after nearly every member of that country’s track and field team was banned from this year’s Olympics after numerous investigations uncovered a widespread, government-run doping scheme that dated back years.

“They’re trying to sow doubt over the integrity of the individual athletes and the various Olympic bodies and watchdog groups,” said Rich Barger, chief information officer at ThreatConnect, a cybersecurity company. “It’s just ultimately sour grapes. What we’re seeing here is a digital temper tantrum.”

The information released mostly involves Therapeutic Use Exemptions, situations in which WADA allows athletes to take certain banned substances if they’re used to treat legitimate medical issues.

In a statement to Newsweek, the International Olympic Committee said none of the athletes mentioned in the hack had done anything wrong.

“The IOC strongly condemns such methods which clearly aim at tarnishing the reputation of clean athletes,” the organization said. “The IOC can confirm, however, that the athletes mentioned did not violate any anti-doping rules during the Olympic Games Rio 2016.”

The hacking group, which is known as Fancy Bear or APT28, works for the military intelligence service GRU. It was one of two Russian spy groups that hacked the Democratic National Committee and may be linked to the release of embarrassing DNC emails by WikiLeaks in July. It has also been active in propaganda operations, researchers say. And last year it hacked the French TV5Monde station, knocking the network off the air for 18 hours in April 2015.

In its statement, WADA said one of the victims whose password was stolen was Yuliya Stepanova, a whistleblower who exposed widespread doping in Russia athletics.

“We will start with the U.S. team which has disgraced its name by tainted victories,” the group said on a website that exposed the hacked WADA documents. “We will also disclose exclusive information about other national Olympic teams later. Wait for sensational proof of famous athletes taking doping substances any time soon.”

Record $10M given

to UNLV football

Football: UNLV’s football program has received the largest single gift in its history and will put the $10 million from the Fertitta family toward a new training facility.

The gift will be put toward the new facility that will be known as the Fertitta Football Complex. The two-level, 73,000-square-foot complex will include an academic center, locker rooms, a workout center, training center and a nutrition bar.

It will be built on campus at the north end of the team’s practice area. Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring and last about 10 months.

The Fertitta family has been a huge supporter of UNLV and the school’s tennis facility is named after Frank and Vicki Fertitta.

NFL consults color- blindness experts: The NFL isn’t colorblind to the concerns of its TV audience regarding the “Color Rush” alternate uniforms the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets will wear Thursday night.

League spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote in an email that the NFL consulted with color-blindness experts to ensure all uniform combinations “will be clearly distinguishable for all fans.” That begins Thursday with the Jets wearing mostly white uniforms and the Bills going with all red.

That’s a switch from last year, when Buffalo wore all red and the Jets all green during their prime-time game on Nov. 12. The combination led to colorblind viewers complaining they couldn’t tell which team was which.

Studies found that red-green color blindness is the most prevalent, effecting more than 10 million Americans.

Last season, the NFL had four games featuring the “Color Rush” promotion. This year, all 32 teams playing on Thursday night will wear the alternate uniforms.

Jaguars’ Ivory released from hospital: The Jacksonville Jaguars say running back Chris Ivory has been released from the hospital and is doing well, but his availability for Sunday’s game at San Diego remains in question.

Ivory was hospitalized Sunday with a “general medical issue” and missed the season opener against Green Bay. Ivory was limited in three practices last week because of a calf injury, but his hospital stay was for an unrelated issue.

The Jaguars (0-1) say there is no timetable for his return.

Without Ivory, a 1,000-yard rusher with the New York Jets last season, the Jaguars averaged 1.8 yards a carry against the Packers.

Also Tuesday, the Jaguars waived safety Marqueston Huff from the reserve/suspended list and reached an injury settlement with practice-squad receiver Shaq Evans.

Saints release Spiller: The New Orleans Saints have released running back C.J. Spiller, who signed a four-year, $16 million free-agent contract just last season.

Spiller was a healthy scratch Sunday, when the Saints opened the regular season with a 35-34 loss to Oakland. On Monday, Saints coach Sean Payton said Spiller was scratched because there wasn’t room for him in the Raiders game plan, adding that Spiller’s role could change “week to week.”

But when the NFL posted Tuesday’s transactions, Spiller’s contract had been terminated.

Vandersloot forces overtime, Sky wins

WNBA: Courtney Vandersloot hit two free throws to force overtime and Cappie Pondexter made a go-ahead layup with 21.3 seconds left to help the Chicago Sky beat the Minnesota Lynx 98-97 in Rosemont, Illinois.

Minnesota took an 86-83 lead with 6.1 seconds left in regulation and the Lynx fouled Vandersloot intentionally in the backcourt.

The Gonzaga University star made the first free throw and purposely missed the second. She grabbed the rebound, was fouled again and hit two free throws with 2.7 seconds left. Janel McCarville’s shot was blocked at the buzzer.

Dolson, Mystics top Liberty: Stefanie Dolson scored a career-high 23 points, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt had a season-best 19 points and the Washington Mystics kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 75-62 victory over the host New York Liberty.

The Mystics need to win their final two games and have eighth-place Phoenix lose its final three to make the playoffs.

Connecticut rallies: Jasmine Thomas scored 21 points and the Connecticut Sun rallied from an 11-point deficit in the second half to beat the Indiana Fever 89-87 in Uncasville, Connecticut.

The Fever (16-16) came into the night tied with Atlanta and Chicago for the fourth seed in the playoffs, which includes a first-round bye in the postseason. Indiana, which has made the playoffs for 12 straight seasons, holds the tiebreaker over both those teams.

U.S. holds on to win in World Cup exhibition

Miscellany: T.J. Oshie, Ryan Kesler and Derek Stepan scored, Jonathan Quick made 30 saves and the U.S. beat Finland 3-2 in each the final exhibition game in Washington before the World Cup of Hockey.

The U.S. was the better team for more than two periods but needed stops from Quick in the final seconds to preserve the victory. Patrik Laine and Jussi Jokinen scored for Finland.

The U.S. almost certainly will have Quick in net for its World Cup opener against Team Europe after he stopped 63 of the 66 shots in exhibition play.

Doctor cleared after sexual abuse accusations: A doctor accused of sexual abuse by two gymnasts – including a former U.S. Olympian – was investigated by Michigan State University authorities in 2014 over a another allegation of misconduct, but the school found no violation of its policy.

School spokesman Kent Cassella said local prosecutors did not file charges two years ago following an investigation by MSU police.

The revelation of a complaint by the MSU graduate comes after two gymnasts, including a member of the 2000 U.S. women’s Olympic team, said they were sexually abused as teenagers by Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics doctor.

Nassar is accused of sexually groping and fondling the Olympian during her elite career, according to a lawsuit filed last week in California by the athlete under the name “Jane Doe.”

The second gymnast, Rachael Denhollander of Louisville, Kentucky, told the Indianapolis Star newspaper that Nassar sexually abused her in 2000 while she underwent treatment for lower back pain at Michigan State, where Nassar is a faculty member. She said she filed a complaint last month with university police.

Michigan State temporarily reassigned Nassar, 53, from clinical and patient duties as of Aug. 30, a day after Denhollander’s complaint was made to authorities. Cassella said that was the first time the school was aware of the allegation.

Cassella said the school investigated Nassar previously, however.

“In a separate incident in 2014, MSU authorities investigated a complaint of misconduct against Larry Nassar,” Cassella said in an email. “The complaint, filed by a recent female MSU graduate at the time, involved an allegation of abuse during a medical procedure. An administrative investigation revealed no violation of MSU policy, and the local prosecutor’s office did not file charges after an investigation by MSU police.

“During the investigation, Nassar was temporarily reassigned from his clinical and patient duties.”

Nassar’s attorney, Matthew Borgula, defended the doctor in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday night.

Tifft returns to racing after surgery: Matt Tifft, a UNC Charlotte student who has missed 10 weeks of NASCAR racing while recovering from brain surgery, will return Friday in the Truck series at Chicagoland Speedway.

Tifft, 20, had a non-cancerous growth removed from his brain on July 1. The tumor was discovered earlier this summer when Tifft was being treated and evaluated for a disc condition in his back.

Czech ice hockey referee dies: An ice hockey referee in the Czech Republic has died after he was injured in a game.

The Czech Ice Hockey Federation says Pavel Lainka, aged 24, died on Saturday, without elaborating on his injury. According to media reports, Lainka was hit in the head by a puck in a youth game.

The federation says a minute of silence for Lainka will be observed at all matches in the top two leagues.

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