By Michael Pavitt |
United States Senators have introduced the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act in the House of Representatives, which they claim will establish criminal penalties for doping offences.
The creation of an act was proposed earlier this year by the US Helsinki Commission, following hearings covering the impact of doping in international sport.
The Commission is tasked with “advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 57 countries.”
Helsinki Commissioner Sheldon Whitehouse and Orrin Hatch introduced the act, named after the former head of the Moscow Laboratory turned whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov.
Rodchenkov’s evidence proved key in exposing the doping scandal in Russia, particularly surrounding the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Senators have declared that the act will establish criminal penalties for participating in “a scheme in commerce to influence a major international sport competition through prohibited substances or methods”.
They state this will apply to all major international sport competitions in which US athletes participate, as well as where organisers receive sponsorship from companies doing business in the US or are compensated for the right to broadcast their competition in the country.
The declaration could prove significant, with suggestions this would enable US authorities to investigate organisations alleged to have been involved in doping cover-ups.
The act appears to reference work from US federal prosecutors in the FIFA corruption scandal, which has led to a series of officials facing indictments and trials in the country after money was allegedly funneled through American banks.
“Existing criminal statutes, such as conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, have been important tools used by United States law enforcement agencies to fight corruption in connection with some major international sport competitions,” the act states.
“However, in other international sporting events, the facts of a doping fraud conspiracy may not support the use of existing laws.”
Lawmakers have stated penalties would include fines of up to $1 million or imprisonment of up to 10 years, depending on the offense.
It is claimed athletes and other persons who are victims of doping conspiracies shall be entitled to mandatory restitution for losses inflicted upon them by fraudsters and conspirators.
The act also pledges to protect whistleblowers from retaliation, with the assertion that by criminalising doping fraud, they will be covered under existing witness and informant protection laws.
References were made to Yuliya and Vitaliy Stepanov, as well as Rodchenkov, and the “critical role” whistleblowers can play in exposing doping fraud.
“I am humbled and honoured to see the introduction of the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act in the Senate,” said Dr. Rodchenkov.
“I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Sen. Whitehouse, Sen. Hatch, and the Helsinki Commission for their courage and leadership in the protection of whistleblowers who come forward to speak the truth.
“I believe that this legislation holds the promise to finally protect athletes and international competitions from corruption and interference that we see continues today.
“This broad support from Congress is vital to our fight for justice and fairness in the international arena of sport.”
The establishment of coordination and sharing of information with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) will also occur, it is claimed, with federal agencies working alongside the organization.
“USADA welcomes the introduction of the Rodchenkov Act,” said Travis Tygart, USADA chief executive.
“We believe this is a game-changing bill that will transform anti-doping for the better and forever at a time when the clean sport movement needs it most; given the recent unprecedented athlete outcry against the anti-doping status quo, this bill is arriving just in the nick of time.
“This bill is part of the overall recognition that doping is fraud, and when it’s done by organizations and institutions – whether that be by a sport or an entire nation – it’s going to be put on the same level as other types of fraud.
“All of those who value fair play and clean athletes’ rights should welcome this legislation and support its immediate passage.”
The International Olympic Committee expressed concern over the proposed act earlier this year, arguing it could put athletes from all 206 National Olympic Committees under the American criminal code.
The act’s introduction comes two months after the US Department of Justice indicted seven individuals for involvement in a Russian-operated military intelligence programme which alleged “sophisticated hacking of US and international anti-doping agencies who investigated and publicly condemned Russia’s state-sponsored doping program.”
It is claimed the the hacking victims also included 230 athletes from approximately 30 countries.
The US Department of Justice claim the operation was part of a disinformation campaign to “actively promote media coverage to further a narrative favourable to the Russian Government.”
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.