Four years ago, Sports-ISAO came into being during the Rio Olympic Games. Its formation was championed by cyber professionals having a love of sport who saw in the fallout from the Kremlin’s Sochi doping denial not just another episode of traditional Soviet era cheating, but a cyber version of Russia’s irregular warfare strategy. Yet, hijacking the purity of sport for a nationalist agenda set off alarm bells. Hacking was nothing new in 2016. What was different about Russia’s playbook was that it was an assault upon truth, beauty, spirit, and the virtues of the human condition.
Caught red-handed at Sochi, the Kremlin was unwilling to accept the ruling about itsfate from the International Olympic Committee – which barred it from international competition. It set out to undermine those it blamed for its plight. Hacks upon the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) were aimed to produce traditional Russian “whataboutism” evidence. Finding and manipulating information concerning therapeutic use exemptions, particularly concerning US and Western athletes, would help prop up the argument that the world was hypocritical, that all nations engaged in doping.
Russian hackers known as Fancy Bear targeted gymnast Simone Biles, and tennis greats, Venus and Serena Williams, and posted private information online. Fancy Bear has also been identified as being affiliated with Russian intelligence. The broader consequences of the Kremlin’s activity is to legitimize doping and to undermine the successes of clean athletes. Further, the Kremlin has engaged in constant efforts to delegitimize Western leadership.
Sports-ISAO exists to call out online criminal and spying mischief. But equally important, Sports-ISAO seeks to restore confidence in the purity of sport, and to support organizations and governments that stand for certain desirable human attributes: truth and beauty, and the admirable qualities that drive humans to compete fairly and in good faith. These are qualities that inspired the initial Olympic Games in Greece. Allowing the transgressions planned and executed by the Kremlin to continue undetected and undeterred undermines our global humanity.
There is value in the purity of sport. It represents an enlightened world view. One shaped by laudable virtues. Sports-ISAO will continue its mission at the intersection of cyber and sport to protect its important role in civil society.