Cheating has always been a part of sports. Until now, efforts to stop athletes from using illegal substances for a performance advantage have focused on penalizing athletes. Now, a new United States anti-doping law plans to change that in a big way.
The Rodchenkov Act, signed by President Trump on 4 December criminalizes international doping conspiracies, while pointedly focusing on high-level suppliers, enablers and doctors rather than on individual athletes.
It significantly extends the long arm of the law, making an expansive claim for U.S. jurisdiction over doping at international competitions throughout the world, including amateur gran fondo and cyclosportive events.
The act is named for Grigory Rodchenkov, the whistleblower who unveiled Russia’s massive state-run doping program and helped amateur cyclist Brian Fogel get all jacked up on steroids for the 2015 Haute Route Alps week-long gran fondo.
Their story is chronicled in the Fogel’s award winning documentary Icarus.
The Act makes it unlawful to knowingly influence a major international sports competition by use of a prohibited substance. A violator is subject to criminal penalties – a minimum $250,000 fine, a prison term of up to 10 years, or both – and mandatory restitution to anyone harmed, including athletes and sponsors. Additionally, property (real estate, vehicles, cash, etc.) may be seized and forfeited to the U.S. government if it was used to commit an offense.
Major international sports competitions are defined as: 1) At least one American athlete, plus at least three other athletes from other countries participating. 2) Is governed by the World Anti-Doping Agency Code. 3) Where the event organizer receives sponsorship or financial support from a business with ties to the United States (virtually every business in the world).
Basically, if a doctor, drug supplier or coach helps an amateur or professional cyclist use performance enhancing drugs in an event anywhere in the world, the U.S. Department of Justice now has legal authority to prosecute the criminal conduct as long as one U.S. rider participated.
Since the main focus of the act is major international doping fraud conspiracies, it is unlikely that the U.S. Department of Justice would pursue doping activities occurring at amateur cycling events.
But they can, with a vengeance, and might for larger amateur events like L’Etape du Tour, Nove Colli or the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships.
Individual athletes who dope need not worry about this Act though. It does not apply to them (unless they help someone else dope) since they are already bound by the World Anti-Doping Code. In addition, the Act offers Whistleblower protection for athletes that cooperate with authorities.