December 8, 2020

Whitehouse-Wicker Bill to Level Playing Field for International Sport Becomes Law

Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act will help crack down on state-sponsored doping

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) today announced that the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, which they introduced last year, has been signed into law by President Trump. The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act aims to level the playing field for international sport by cracking down on state-sponsored doping schemes like the one deployed by the Russian government in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

“This law sends a strong bipartisan signal that the United States will stand up for whistleblowers and against criminal interference in international sport,” said Senator Whitehouse. “The World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Olympic Committee have failed to hold the Russian government accountable for systemic cheating in Sochi. Ahead of the next Olympics, we’ve established stiff penalties for doping and sent a message to Russia and the world that state-sponsored fraud will not be tolerated.”

“This law is a great bipartisan accomplishment for the rights of athletes, the protection of whistleblowers, and our common goal of keeping criminals out of international sports,” said Senator Wicker. “The world’s top athletes should not have a life achievement ripped away from them through fraud—and no whistleblower should live in fear of retaliation for exposing that fraud, as Dr. Rodchenkov has been forced to do.” Whitehouse and Wicker both serve on the Helsinki Commission, an independent commission of the U.S. government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security among the 57 member countries.

“As a professional athlete, it’s encouraging to see impactful anti-doping measures like whistleblower protection and information sharing supported by the federal government. There is more to do on all fronts regarding improving anti-doping measures in professional sports, but this is an important step forward. Doping in sport is a criminal offense as far as what’s stolen from clean athletes, so this helps bolster USADA’s ability to detect, stop and give consequence to it,” said Providence-based Olympic runner Molly Huddle.

The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act advanced through the legislative process entirely on consensus-based procedures, demonstrating the wide bipartisan support for the measure. The legislation also has received overwhelming support from amateur and professional sport organizations, including the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee Athletes’ Advisory Council, the U.S. Olympians and Paralympians Association, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and PGA TOUR. The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act will:

  • Establish criminal penalties for participating in a scheme in commerce to influence a major international sport competition through prohibited substances or methods. This section applies to all major international sport competitions in which U.S. athletes participate, and where organizing entities receive sponsorship from companies doing business in the United States or are compensated for the right to broadcast their competition there, so that international fraud against Americans will not go unpunished. Penalties will include fines of up to $1,000,000, or imprisonment of up to 10 years, depending on the offense.
  • Provide restitution to victims of such conspiracies. Athletes and other persons who are victims of major international doping fraud conspiracies shall be entitled to mandatory restitution for losses inflicted upon them by fraudsters and conspirators.
  • Protect whistleblowers from retaliation. By criminalizing participation in a major international doping fraud conspiracy, whistleblowers will be included under existing witness and informant protection laws.
  • Establish coordination and sharing of information with the United States Anti-Doping Agency. Federal agencies involved in the fight against doping shall coordinate and share information with USADA, whose mission is to preserve the integrity of competition, inspire true sport, and protect the rights of athletes, to enhance their collective efforts to curb doping fraud.

In 2016, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov exposed the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal that took place during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. By deceiving international anti-doping authorities and swapping athletes’ samples, Russian officials cheated U.S. athletes out of Olympic glory and U.S. corporations out of honest sponsorships. These corrupt officials used bribes and illicit payments, sometimes through U.S. financial institutions, to commit this fraud. Unfortunately, the masterminds behind the Russian doping operation escaped punishment for their actions because there was no U.S. legal mechanism to bring them to justice.

In February 2018, the Helsinki Commission held a briefing featuring Dr. Rodchenkov’s attorney, Jim Walden, on combating fraud in sports and the role of whistleblowers in safeguarding the integrity of international competitions. In March, Commissioners Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Rep. Jackson Lee met with Dr. Rodchenkov to discuss the threat posed by Russia to the United States, corruption in international sports bodies, and how the United States can contribute to the international effort to counter doping fraud. In July, the Helsinki Commission held a hearing that explored the interplay between doping fraud and globalized corruption and U.S. policy responses, including the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act.

In October 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted seven individuals for involvement in a Russian-operated military intelligence program in which GRU officers are alleged to have conducted sophisticated hacking of U.S. and international anti-doping agencies who investigated and publicly condemned Russia’s state-sponsored doping program. The hacking victims also included 230 athletes from approximately 30 countries. The operation was part of a disinformation campaign in which victims’ personal email communications and individual medical and drug testing information, sometimes modified from its original form, was used to promote media coverage to further a narrative favorable to the Russian government.

In October 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted a further six individuals for involvement in a Russian-operated military intelligence program in which GRU officers are alleged to have conducted sophisticated hacking of entities and organizations involved with the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games.

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