US legislators forward law against doping practices

Photo: marc ficher/Flickr

Photo: Flickr/Mark Fischer.

13.06.2018

By Luca Arfini
US lawmakers have proposed a bill to criminalise doping in global competitions. The bill is called the ‘Rodchenko Act’, named after the Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory.

This Tuesday, a step towards the fight against doping was made in the United States with the proposal of the Rodchenkov Act. The proposal introduces criminal penalties for both US athletes and companies involved in the manufacturing, distributing, and using of performance enhancing drugs.

The penalties would depend on the severity of the offense and they would apply to all the major international sports events in which US athletes or US organisations participate. They could vary from a fine of up to $1,000,000, to an imprisonment of up to ten years; with the purpose of guaranteeing the punishment of international fraud committed against Americans will.

The bill would also establish a private civil right of action for doping fraud, protect whistleblowers from retaliation and empower the U.S. Attorney General to help private litigants to obtain foreign evidence in cases. “Doping fraud in major international competitions also effectively defrauds the United States,” the bill states.

The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act (RADA) takes the name of the Russian chemist Grigory Rodchenkov, who was formerly managing the Moscow anti-doping Laboratory and played a major role in uncovering the doping scandal concerning more than 1,000 Russian athletes. After 2015, Rodchenkov fled Russia to the United States, where he is under a witness protection program.

“I think the RADA will have a meaningful impact on coaches and athletes if they realize they might not be able to travel outside of their country for fear of being arrested,” said Jim Walden, Rodchenkov’s lawyer, who met with the lawmakers as they reflected on the issue in recent months, according to the New York Times.

The RADA was introduced into Congress by Sheila Jackson Lee and Michael Burgess, who are part of the US Helsinki Commission, a government agency that promotes human rights, military security, and economic cooperation in 57 countries all over the globe.

“Meeting Dr. Rodchenkov and witnessing his courage in the face of Putin’s brutal regime inspired me to introduce the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act,“ stated Sheila Jackson Lee.

“The unprecedented level of doping he exposed at the Olympics, where American athletes compete and U.S. companies are sponsors, demonstrates how countries engaging in clean sport are being defrauded by criminals. In particular, athletes’ livelihoods suffer when prize money and sponsorships are awarded to cheaters.”

The bill has been forwarded on the eve of of the Russian FIFA World Cup beginning on Thursday. The World Cup is the largest sports event since the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where several Russian athletes, including 15 medal winners, were found to be involved in the Russian doping scandal.

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