All that’s missing is Trump’s signature, and the Rodchenkov Act will come into force. This new law, validated at the beginning of the week by the American Senate, must criminalize outside the borders any person responsible for a doping system harming the interests of American athletes.
According to the current text as proposed to the upper house, it is thus intended “To impose criminal sanctions on all persons involved in international anti-doping fraud plots”, but also of “Provide restitution to victims of such conspiracies and demand the sharing of information with the United States Anti-Doping Agency to help it fight doping and for other purposes.”
The US justice can also impose prison sentences of up to ten years and fines of up to one million dollars to all these people, regardless of their nationality. More than the athletes, already liable to sanctions formulated by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), it is their entourage (agents, coaches, managers) who will be in the American sights here.
This new legislative arsenal is supposed to provide a response to the reactions deemed insufficient from WADA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), especially when it was necessary to sanction Russia for its fraudulent policy in this area between 2011 and 2015. Everything is in the name: the Rodchenkov Act, surname of the former director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory at the origin of the revelations on organized doping in Russia and refugee in the United States, key figure in the Oscar-winning documentary Icare retracing this episode.
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The adoption of this law arouses general enthusiasm in the United States, as much among Republicans and Democrats as the American anti-doping agency (Usada). The latter has also fought at length for the law to be examined by the Senate, after having first been validated by the House of Representatives in October 2019.
“It’s a monumental day in the fight for clean sport around the world. We look forward to seeing the law soon help change the game for clean athletes. […] It will provide the necessary tools to protect them and hold all international doping conspirators accountable ”, reacted Travis Tygart, the executive director of Usada. He reminds us that the text also makes it possible to protect “Retaliatory whistleblowers and informants, and provides compensation for athletes victims of doping conspiracies”.
However, its upcoming entry into force is not to the liking of the International Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The international body has for a time tried to oppose it, arguing that such a law does not prevent it from carrying out its mission to promote, coordinate and supervise the fight against doping. “WADA, as well as a number of governments and sports organizations, have legitimate concerns about the Rodchenkov Act», worries the foundation. She explains it as follows: “That can lead to overlapping laws in different jurisdictions, compromising having one set of rules for all athletes around the world. ”
Another risk invoked by WADA: that the law could dissuade “Whistleblowers take action by exposing them to multiple jurisdictions. This will seriously compromise our ability to conduct investigations ”. The world authority adds not to understand “Why this law excludes vast areas of American sport», especially professional leagues and all college sports. “If it’s not good enough for American sports, why is it good for the rest of the world?” she asks herself. “The United States is passing a law that will apply to the rest of the world and not to the United States, which seems paradoxical”, replies Patrick Trabal, professor in sociology at the University of Nanterre, and scientific director of the Unesco chair “Study of doping and analysis of anti-doping policies”.
A “rebound” in the AMA-United States war
In any case, the introduction of the Rodchenkov Act risks aggravating the already very tense relations in recent months between WADA and the Usada. Deeming the work of the first cited insufficient in the fight against doping in recent years, the United States threaten to withdraw their annual contribution (2.7 million dollars) to this organization.
In addition to WADA’s handling of the Russian doping scandal, the United States questions its independence, with WADA being made up of many heads of sports federations and members of the International Olympic Committee who Washington says wield influence. within it.
In return, Witold Banka, the president of WADA, threatened the country with possible sanctions (not against American athletes) if this were the case. In mid-September, the latter called for a resumption of dialogue. The adoption of American law risks straining it again. “We can read this affair as one of the twists and turns in this war between WADA and the United States, decrypts Patrick Trabal. It is no more and no less than a power struggle: knowing who, in the land of the global anti-doping sheriffs, will be the real sheriff. ”
And in this little game, not sure that the United States has the last word. “The superposition of these two jurisdictions risks being counterproductive. It risks being arbitrated by Unesco [via la convention onusienne de 2005, qui doit assurer l’efficacité du Code mondial antidopage, ndlr] who will face up to their responsibilities ”, says Patrick Trabal. From there, “There is a good chance that, in a certain way, this American law will be invalidated by the Unesco convention. I don’t see how she could hold up ”.