The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, named after the whistleblower who helped shine a light on Russia’s state-sponsored doping scheme, has passed through the House and has bipartisan support in the Senate. The bill calls for fines of up to $1 million and prison sentences of up to 10 years for bad actors involved in doping schemes designed to cheat athletes.
- While the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has been a major champion of the bill, its international counterpart, WADA, has voiced concerns about the legislation’s reach. The matter came to a head last week at the WADA world conference in Poland, where U.S. anti-doping officials said the proposed legislation was being intentionally mischaracterized.
- “They don’t want to understand it,” Travis Tygart, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s chief executive, said in an interview this week. “They’re just playing a political game now to a large extent because I think they’re seriously concerned about it actually cleaning up sport to a large extent around the world. And that makes it uncomfortable for some of their friends.”
- The Rodchenkov Act would allow the United States to pursue prosecution for conspirators involved in tainting competitions that involve American athletes and, importantly, U.S. money. Tygart likens the bill’s wide-reaching prosecutorial authority to what’s provided by the Bank and Wire Fraud Act, the RICO Act and the Travel Act, saying “the U.S. government, from a policy standpoint, certainly wants to protect investment by U.S. companies around the world.”
- “It’s a fantastic effort that recognizes that doping is fraud,” he said, “and when it’s done by organizations or institutions — whether it’s a sport organization or a nation — that it’s going to be put on the same level as other types of fraud.”
- The legislation does not target the athletes necessarily, thus allowing them to step forward as whistleblowers.
- The AP reported last week that WADA has budgeted at least $250,000 for lobbying efforts related to the bill. That surprised some U.S. anti-doping officials, who are quick to note that the United States provided $2.5 million of WADA’s annual budget.
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