Bill to criminalize doping schemes passes U.S. Senate
World Anti-Doping Agency actively opposed key parts of the measure
A bill that will strengthen American law enforcement's ability to deal with widespread international doping conspiracies passed the Senate unopposed Monday and awaits the president's signature.
The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act will allow U.S. prosecutors to go after doping schemes at international events in which Americans are involved as athletes, sponsors or broadcasters. The events would not necessarily have to take place in the United States. The law would not go after individual athletes caught in the schemes.
The World Anti-Doping Agency has actively opposed key parts of the measure, budgeting six figures to lobby lawmakers over its concerns about the "extraterritorial" jurisdiction the bill proposed. In a letter sent to lawmakers earlier this year, WADA claimed the law would "have the unintended consequences of shattering the anti-doping system."
At a tense WADA meeting last week, a U.S. representative to the agency portrayed WADA's protests as a lost cause.
"Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much these days but they all agree that the Russian doping scandal and WADA's handling of it undermined confidence in the global anti-doping system," said Anthony Jones of the U.S. drug-control office.
The bill is named after Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of Moscow's anti-doping laboratory who blew the whistle on some of Russia's schemes to help athletes avoid positive tests during the Sochi Olympics in 2014 and other key events. Rodchenkov now lives in hiding in the United States.
'Immediate worldwide deterrent'
His attorney, Jim Walden, said the passage of the bill signalled "the dawn of a new day for clean American and global athletes."
"Very soon, U.S. authorities will be able to prosecute those involved in systematic doping fraud. This will be an immediate worldwide deterrent," Walden said.
The law would be in line with others that have helped U.S. authorities crack down on international corruption in different areas. It calls for fines of up to $1 million and prison sentences of up to 10 years for those who participate in schemes designed to influence international sports competitions through doping.
Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said: "It is a monumental day in the fight for clean sport worldwide."
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