Critics of athletes uses of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) following the Fancy Bears cyber-attack on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) are "talking no sense", former French Sports Minister Valérie Fourneyron claimed here today in a staunch defence of the system.
The WADA Executive Committee member and chair of the Health, Medical and Research Committee used her report to the Foundationg Board to address lingering concerns over TUEs - where athletes are given permission to take banned substances for legitimate medical issues - in the wake of the leak of confidential athlete medical data by the Fancy Bears hacking group.
Her update to the 38-member Foundation Board came after WADA director general Olivier Niggli revealed that the attacks "had not stopped" as he urged athletes to be "extremely careful".
It was then confirmed by WADA medical director Alan Vernec that 228 TUE certificates from 127 athletes had been made public so far.
He claimed 18 of these had been "fabricated".
Vernec later told insidethegames that this did not mean Fancy Bears had "plucked them out of thin air" but had manipulated records already in the system.
A total of 143 TUEs were granted before the Olympic Games, Vernec said, representing one per cent of the 11,303 athletes who competed at Rio 2016.
Vernec was unable to confirm whether any of those competitors given TUEs prior to Rio 2016 had gone on to win a medal in the Brazilian city.
“With this question, you are implying the TUE assisted the athlete and I do not agree with this,” he said.
Vernec's report had said there was "no evidence of abuse or wrongdoing" and that the substances involved were "necessary".
The cyber-attack by Fancy Bears on the WADA ADAMS (Anti-Doping Administration & Management System) had raised fears that athletes were exploiting the system in order to gain an unfair advantage.
It has led to criticism of WADA and the current TUE structure, with Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov labelling it as “pure nonsense”.
WADA deputy director general Rob Koehler, confirmed that the cyber-attack had been led by an espionage group based in Russia.
"The very existence of TUEs is an acknowledgement that all athletes have a right to medical care," Fourneyron said here.
"So the people who talk about suppressing the system of TUEs are talking no sense."
Edwin Moses, considered one of the greatest-ever athletes having won two Olympic gold medals in the 400 metres hurdles and who is now President of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, claimed the leaks and the naming of the athletes were "embarrassing".
He vowed to help improve the education around this area.
"The athletes should not have anxieties about being positioned in the press as cheats," Moses said.
"It is really unfortunate that it happened but I thought the response was good from everyone."
Association of Summer Olympic International Federations President Francesco Ricci Bitti had earlier announced a total of $200,000 (£162,000/€189,000) has been spent on combating the attack on the ADAMS.
It is thought some of the money would have been used to hire cyber security firm FireEye Inc to assess the extent of the data breach by Fancy Bears' and ascertain what files were removed from its system.
Several high-profile sporting stars, including Britain’s Mo Farah and Sir Bradley Wiggins, US tennis players Serena and Venus Williams, American gymnast Simone Biles and Spain's 14 Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, have had their medical data revealed to the public.
Sir Bradley's cases caused particular concern because the cyclist's three approvals for powerful drug triamcinolone acetonide coincided with the Tour de France in 2011 and 2012 and the Giro d'Italia in 2013 - his biggest races of all three seasons.
He has denied any wrongdoing.