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US Senate passes anti-doping bill named after Russian whistle-blower

Russian doping whistleblower Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov (COMMISSION ON SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The U.S. Senate on November 16 passed legislation granting U.S. officials the power to prosecute individuals responsible for doping at international sporting competitions involving U.S. athletes, sponsors, or broadcasters.

The legislation, named after whistle-blower Grigory Rodchenkov, who lifted the lid on doping in Russia, has already passed the House of Representatives and is now set to be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

The legislation targets coaches, agents, dealers, managers, and sports or government officials, threatening fines of up to $1 million and prison sentences of up to 10 years.

“It is a monumental day in the fight for clean sport worldwide and we look forward to seeing the act soon become law and help change the game for clean athletes for the good,” United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) chief executive Travis Tygart said in a statement.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which has authority to sanction athletes for doping, has expressed concern over the legislation, warning it could lead to a patchwork of laws that weaken the principle of having one set of rules for all athletes around the world.

A WADA spokesman on November 16 added that the law may potentially undermine the global anti-doping system by deterring whistle-blowers from coming forward if there is a risk they could be prosecuted.

WADA is also critical of the legislation’s exclusion of U.S. professional leagues and college sports.

But Tygart said the legislation offers greater protection for both athletes and whistle-blowers.

“The act will provide the tools needed to protect clean athletes and hold accountable international doping conspiracies that defraud sport, sponsors, and that harm athletes,” the USADA chief said.

It also protects whistle-blowers from retaliation and provides restitution for athletes defrauded by doping conspiracies, Tygart said.

Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, was heavily involved in a state-backed doping conspiracy designed to cover up Russia’s cheating at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and other events.

Rodchenkov fled to the United States in 2016 and provided evidence of the doping conspiracy to WADA. He apologized for his role in the manipulation of the anti-doping system.

Russian prosecutors have accused him of being largely responsible for the scandal. A Russian court in 2017 issued an arrest warrant for Rodchenkov, who is living in hiding in the United States.