Bill to criminalize doping schemes passes Senate committee

A bill that calls for prison time for those who participate in international doping schemes moved one step closer to becoming law Wednesday when it passed a Senate committee on a voice vote.

The Rodchenkov Act, named for the Moscow lab director, Gregory Rodchenkov, who blew the whistle on Russia’s cheating at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, will next be considered by the full Senate.

The House already passed it on a voice vote, and the Senate committee’s action was a strong indicator that U.S. lawmakers are not heeding the warnings coming from international sports leaders about the consequences of such a law.

Both the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency have aggressively sought changes in the legislation, concerned that such a bill would give the U.S. jurisdiction over doping issues that occur overseas. In a letter sent to senators last month, WADA said some of the provisions of the bill would create a “chaotic World Anti-Doping system with no legal predictability.”

The IOC put out a statement reiterating some of its issues with the bill, part of which said, “We also hope that during the ongoing legislative procedure, the issue of the extra territorial jurisdiction, which the draft of the law attributes to the U.S. authorities, will be addressed.”

Jim Walden, the attorney for Rodchenkov and a supporter of the bill, said the act is in line with other laws that have helped U.S. authorities crack down on international corruption in different areas. The measure 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. (Individual athletes who get caught doping would not be subject to punishment under the law.)

“We’ve seen the model again and again and it works,” Walden said. “It’s high time doping was added to the list of fraudulent offenses so everyoe gets prosecuted who deserves it.”