Washington: The head of the US Anti-Doping Agency is urging the US Congress to pass a bill criminalising international doping conspiracies before the Tokyo Olympics, saying it would be a strong deterrent in the absence of adequate punishment for past Russian doping.
USADA CEO Travis Tygart testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday . The House has unanimously approved the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, named for the Moscow lab director who blew the whistle on Russia's state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and the bill – which also includes protections for whistleblowers – has bipartisan support in the Senate.
The Russian Olympic Committee building in Moscow.Credit:AP
"We all now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fix the global anti-doping system," Tygart said. "We host the LA Olympic Games in 2028, and we want it real, not rigged."
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which receives more funding from the United States than from any other country, is lobbying for extensive changes to the bill. In a letter to the Senate this week, WADA said the bill would "have the unintended consequences of shattering the anti-doping system" if passed without changes.
The bill would allow US prosecutors to go after doping schemes at international events in which Americans are involved as athletes, sponsors or broadcasters.
The bill would allow US prosecutors to go after doping schemes at international events in which Americans are involved as athletes, sponsors or broadcasters. WADA has concerns about the "extraterritorial" jurisdiction the bill proposes. Many US corruption laws, including those used to prosecute FIFA executives in the soccer-bidding scandal, also allow charges for crimes committed overseas.
"Currently, there are elements of the act that could backfire and be counterproductive for the protection of clean sport around the world," WADA director general Olivier Niggli said.
Asked after the hearing whether he felt greater urgency to pass the bill before the Olympics, which begin in July, Senator Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican and the committee chairman, said, "I think so."
Tygart said the bill was consistent with WADA's anti-doping regulations and that WADA's opposition shows the organisation's conflicts of interest.
Tygart and USADA, along with anti-doping agencies from dozens of other countries, have argued for a fully independent WADA that does not include officials who benefit financially from the sports they are supposed to be policing.
Tygart also criticised WADA for its actions in the long-running Russia case. Russian athletes were allowed to compete at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics under a neutral flag, and WADA has issued the same sanction on Russia for Tokyo – disappointing some anti-doping advocates who called for a blanket ban on all Russian competitors.
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