(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law on Friday a bill that lets U.S. justice officials pursue criminal penalties against those involved in doping conspiracies at international events involving American athletes, sponsors or broadcasters.
The Rodchenkov Act, named after the whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov who helped expose Russia’s state-sponsored doping, empowers prosecutors to seek fines of up to $1 million and jail terms of up to 10 years, as well restitution to victims.
“(The law gives) the Department of Justice a powerful and unique set of tools to eradicate doping fraud and related criminal activities from international competitions,” said Rodchenkov’s lawyer Jim Walden, according to Inside the Games.
It was now up to the justice department to develop a robust program, cooperating with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and international law enforcement, to bring the guilty to justice and create zero tolerance for doping in sports, he added.
“Dopings should be on clear notice: This is a new sheriff in town, so cheat at your own peril.”
The bill, passed unopposed by the U.S. Senate last month, was opposed by the International Olympic Committee, who have questioned why American professional and college athletes are exempt.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said there was no need to include U.S. professional and college sports in the legislation as existing law allows their prosecution.
The World Anti-Doping Agency has also expressed concerns over the bill, saying it will destabilize the global anti-doping effort by extending U.S. jurisdiction beyond its own borders.
“No nation has ever before asserted criminal jurisdiction over doping offences that occurred outside its national borders – and for good reason,” the agency said last month when the bill passed the Senate.
“WADA remains concerned that by unilaterally exerting U.S. criminal jurisdiction over all global doping activity, the Act will likely undermine clean sport by jeopardizing critical partnerships and cooperation between nations.”
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)