US Senate passes bill to criminalise doping at international sporting events

Grigory Rodchenkov speaks to BBC sports editor Dan Roan in February 2018

The United States Senate has passed a bill that will allow US officials to prosecute anyone involved in doping at international sporting events.

The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, named after Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, is set to be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) chief Travis Tygart said it was "monumental" in the "fight for clean sport".

However, the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) is concerned about the bill.

The legislation, which passed the Senate unopposed on Monday after previously passing the House of Representatives unanimously, allows the US to seek prosecution for doping conspirators at competitions involving American athletes, sponsors or broadcasters.

It targets coaches, agents, managers and officials rather than athletes, who are already covered by Wada sanctions.

The potential penalties include fines of up to $1m (£756,000) or prison sentences of up to 10 years.

"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," said Tygart.

"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."

Wada said that despite "positive elements" of the bill, it is concerned the legislation will "disrupt the global legal anti-doping framework".

"It is likely to lead to overlapping laws in different jurisdictions that will compromise having a single set of anti-doping rules for all sports and all anti-doping organizations under the Wada code," it added.

Wada president Witold Banka also questioned why the law excludes US professional and college athletes, when they were included in the original draft.

He said: "If it is not good enough for American sports, why is it being imposed on the rest of the world?"

Wada also said it was concerned the bill could deter whistleblowers from coming forward if there was a risk of prosecution, but Tygart said the law would "protect whistleblowers from retaliation".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia opposed any US legislation, including the Rodchenkov Act, which sought to extend US jurisdiction beyond its borders.

Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow's anti-doping laboratory, fled Russia in late 2015 with detailed evidence of the state-sponsored doping regime he masterminded, which led to Russia's ban from the 2018 Winter Olympics.

He is living under a witness protection programme in the US.

Rodchenkov's lawyer said the bill was "the dawn of a new day for clean American and global athletes".

He added: "Very soon, US authorities will be able to prosecute those involved in systematic doping fraud. This will be an immediate worldwide deterrent."

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