House of Representatives Introduces Bill to Criminalize Doping in International Competition

A new bill was just introduced in the United States House of Representatives to criminalize doping in international sports.

The bill is named the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act (RADA) after Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of Moscow’s Anti-Doping Centre. Rodchenkov blew the whistle on state-sponsored doping among Russian athletes in 2016 and subsequently fled to the United States after two senior officials involved in the scandal died unexpectedly.

Spearheaded by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas, and co-sponsored by fellow members of congress Michael C. Burgess (R) and Gwen Moore (D), the bill focuses on the use of doping in international sports. Nothing would affect the NFL or Major League Baseball, for example; rather the law would establish American jurisdiction over international sporting events, even if they take place outside of the United States.

Grigory Rodchenkov

Grigory Rodchenkov, in the 2017 documentary IcarusImage via Netflix/Alex Productions.

The bill attaches fines (up to $250,000 for individuals and $1,000,000 for organizations) and prison time of up to 5 years to the use, manufacturing, or distribution of performance-enhancing drugs. It also protects whistleblowers from retaliation and establishes a “private civil right of action” for doping fraud, meaning that athletes who have been cheated in competitions (as well as corporations who sponsor them) can sue in federal court to recover damages. For example, even if it’s awarded at a later date, an athlete who missed out on a medal due to a competitor taking PEDs might also be missing out on potential sponsorships and financial benefits that he or she (or a company) can now sue for.

Per The New York Times,

The law would establish America’s jurisdiction over international sports events, even those outside of the United States, if they include at least three other nations, with at least four American athletes participating or two American companies acting as sponsors. (…)

The statute would be the first of its kind with global reach, empowering American prosecutors to act on doping violations abroad, and to file fraud charges of a different variety than those the Justice Department brought against top international soccer officials in 2015.

“Meeting Dr. Rodchenkov and witnessing his courage in the face of Putin’s brutal regime inspired me to introduce the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act,” said Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee (above), who described doping (including state-sponsored doping) as having, “the ability to undermine international relations, and is often connected to more nefarious actions by state actors.”

Some are speculating that the timing of the bill — which hasn’t passed, it’s just been introduced — could be linked to the FIFA World Cup kicking off in Russia this week, this being the biggest sporting event held in Russia since the scandal-ridden Sochi Olympics in 2014.