Doctors from the NHL started attending the Olympic hockey tournament in 1998, and their presence alongside the physicians officially assigned to each country’s team has always been controversial, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Russian government’s extraordinarily comprehensive surveillance in Sochi has only made the situation more delicate for the league doctors, accustomed to keeping their players’ secrets.
A doctor assigned to a team that competes for only two weeks every four years might take fewer precautions to protect the players’ long-term health — or at least, that is the concern of the owners of NHL teams, who send their own physicians to the Olympics to watch out for their players while they compete for their native countries. Before leaving for Sochi, NHL players had to sign an agreement to sit on the bench if directed to do so by a doctor from the league.
Back home, those doctors are accustomed to divulging very little about injured players’ conditions. Opponents might take advantage of an injured body part, or try to hit it a second time.
Russia, though, has a powerful surveillance system. Security experts believe the government is constantly scanning electronic communications in and around Sochi, letting nothing escape, according to Newsweek. The magazine also reports that analysts have observed a marked increase in traffic at servers associated with Russian criminal organizations during the Games, and they speculate that Russian intelligence could be collaborating with these groups to spy on visitors.
If so, Russia is probably more interested in diplomatic or financial information than hockey players’ medical reports. Yet NHL owners aren’t taking chances with their athletes. The Inquirer reports that Philadelphia Flyers orthopedic surgeon Peter DeLuca is sending encrypted text messages from a clean phone that he received especially for the trip to Sochi.