Not long after a bill that would criminalize international doping conspiracies advanced in the US Congress, world Olympic and anti-doping leaders made clear how they felt about the development.
They started lobbying for changes in Washington.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have each devoted six-figure budgets to get word out on their issues with the Rodchenkov Act.
The bill — named after Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of the now-defunct Anti-Doping Center in Moscow, who blew the whistle on Russia’s cheating at the Sochi Olympics — was last month passed by the US House of Representatives and is now awaiting action in the US Senate.
The measure calls for fines of up to US$1 million and prison sentences of up to 10 years for those who participate in schemes designed to influence international sports competitions through doping.
It would also allow the US Anti-Doping Agency to obtain information collected by federal investigators, which could help prosecute anti-doping cases.
WADA president Craig Reedie said that the agency favored the part of the bill that calls for transferring information.
“The area which is troublesome is the suggestion that American jurisdiction would go beyond the United States and might create liability in other parts of the world,” Reedie said.
WADA documents obtained by reporters say that the agency has budgeted “at least” US$250,000 to continue the lobbying effort into next year.
The bill, according to a news release from its sponsor, US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, “would establish criminal penalties for participating in a scheme in commerce to influence a major international sport competition through prohibited substances or methods.”
However, language that would have made athletes vulnerable to prosecution for doping was stripped out of the bill.
That language, some critics felt, could have discouraged foreign athletes from competing in the US.
Rodchenkov’s lawyer, Jim Walden, said that the IOC’s position on the law proves it “would rather host dirty games than have anyone else police doping fraud.”
“If the IOC and WADA want to lobby US lawmakers on behalf of Russia’s corrupt interests, that is a serious problem and I would encourage our congressmen and senators to be very wary of these efforts,” Walden said.
Rob Koehler of the athlete’s group Global Athlete said that he was similarly surprised, “given the bill’s ability to eradicate the people who are enabling doping.”
The IOC said that it was appreciative of efforts to control doping in the US.
“However, it is a matter of concern that the intention of the proposed legislation is to put athletes from all 206 National Olympic Committees from around the world who take part in international competition under the criminal code of US law,” an IOC spokesman said in a statement.
US Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart dismissed that idea, citing the removal of the language involving individual athletes.
It will soon become clear how effective the lobbying efforts are.
The bill, especially after it was revised, has gained wide support. It passed on a voice vote, without opposition, in the House. It has bipartisan support in the Senate.
In a sign of how seriously it takes the issue, the White House has assigned a political appointee, Kendel Ehrlich, to its Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Last month, the office hosted a first-of-its-kind summit to discuss doping in sports.
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