November 24, 2020

US Senate passes bill to criminalise doping at international sporting events

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Grigory Rodchenkov speaks to BBC sports editor Dan Roan in February 2018

The United States Senate has passed a bill that will allow US officials to prosecute anyone involved in doping at international sporting events.

The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, named after Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, is set to be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) chief Travis Tygart said it was “monumental” in the “fight for clean sport”.

However, the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) is concerned about the bill.

The legislation, which passed the Senate unopposed on Monday after previously passing the House of Representatives unanimously, allows the US to seek prosecution for doping conspirators at competitions involving American athletes, sponsors or broadcasters.

It targets coaches, agents, managers and officials rather than athletes, who are already covered by Wada sanctions.

The potential penalties include fines of up to $1m (£756,000) or prison sentences of up to 10 years.

“The act will provide the tools needed to protect clean athletes and hold accountable international doping conspiracies that defraud sport, sponsors and that harm athletes,” said Tygart.

“It is a monumental day in the fight for clean sport worldwide and we look forward to seeing the act soon become law and help change the game for clean athletes for the good.”

Wada said it had “legitimate concerns” that the bill could undermine the global anti-doping effort and has questioned why the law excludes US professional and college athletes, when they were included in the original draft.

“It may lead to overlapping laws in different jurisdictions that will compromise having a single set of rules for all athletes around the world,” said Wada.

“This harmonisation of rules is at the very core of the global anti-doping program.

“If it is not good enough for American sports, why is it fine for the rest of the world?”

Wada also said it was concerned the bill could deter whistleblowers from coming forward if there was a risk of prosecution but Tygart said the law would “protect whistleblowers from retaliation”.

Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory, fled Russia in late 2015 with detailed evidence of the state-sponsored doping regime he masterminded, which led to Russia’s ban from the 2018 Winter Olympics.

He is living under a witness protection programme in the US.

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