On December 4, the U.S. officially signed the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act into law. This new law will allow American prosecutors to investigate doping at international events in which Americans are participants, sponsors, or broadcasters. Violators will face up to 10 years in prison, as well as fines of $250,000 for individuals and $1 million for organizations.
This comes less than one month after the bill was passed through the U.S. Senate, amid heavy criticism from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). In a statement released on November 17, the agency expressed its concern that some important elements of the Act may have unintended consequences, and that its extraterritorial nature might undermine the global fight against doping.
“No nation has ever before asserted criminal jurisdiction over doping offences that occurred outside its national borders – and for good reason,” the Agency said. 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 World Anti-Doping Code (Code).”
Additionally, WADA wants to know why the act excludes large areas of U.S. sports, including college and professional leagues. These leagues consist of nearly half a million athletes and yet were removed from the bill without explanation.
Despite this controversy, the law has officially been passed. Some prominent voices in the fight against doping are considering this a victory, including Jim Walden, the lawyer representing Grigory Rodchenkov, the Russian whistle-blower for whom the act is named. Walden says that it is now up to the Department of Justice to cooperate with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and international law enforcement partners to develop an effective program that creates zero tolerance for doping in sport.
“Dopers should be on clear notice: there is a new sheriff in town, so cheat at your own peril,” he said in a statement.
It is important to note that this law is aimed not at individuals who are cheating, but at larger doping schemes. Walden is considering the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act a monumental step in the fight for clean sport, and is hoping that other countries will partner with the U.S. on cross-border law enforcement to protect the rights of clean athletes and the integrity of sport.