IOC and WADA question why U.S. sport exempt from Rodchenkov Act

The Rodchenkov Act will give U.S. justice officials the ability to pursue criminal penalties against anyone involved in doping at international events involving American athletes, sponsors or broadcasters. Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Tuesday acknowledged the passing of the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act (RADA) in the United States Senate but questioned why American professional and college athletes are exempt from the legislation.

The Rodchenkov Act, named after the whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov who helped expose Russia's state-sponsored doping, will give U.S. justice officials the ability to pursue criminal penalties against anyone involved in doping at international events involving American athletes, sponsors or broadcasters.

The legislation, passed unopposed in the U.S. Senate on Monday, now only needs the signature of the president to become law.

Professional leagues and college sports in the U.S. were included in the original draft of the bill, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), but were later removed. They also do not adhere to the World Anti-Doping Code.

"The IOC continues to encourage the U.S. professional leagues, in which the most popular American athletes play, and the U.S. college sports organisation (NCAA), from which the vast majority of the most successful U.S. athletes come, to apply the World Anti-Doping Code," the IOC said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, they are exempt from this new Act, and they have so far not accepted the World Anti-Doping Code."

WADA also expressed concerns over the bill, saying it will destabilise the global anti-doping effort by extending U.S. jurisdiction beyond its own borders while giving U.S. professional and college athletes a free pass.

"We join other stakeholders around the globe in asking why this U.S. legislation, which purports to protect athletes and claims jurisdiction overseas, specifically excludes the hugely popular and influential professional and college leagues," WADA president Witold Banka said in a statement.

"These leagues were originally included in the Act but were subsequently removed without explanation.

"If it is not good enough for American sports, why is it being imposed on the rest of the world?"

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said there was no need to include U.S. professional and college sports in the legislation since they could already be prosecuted under existing laws.

"First, the WADA Code is the lynchpin to RADA applying," USADA said in an email to Reuters. "It will apply in the U.S. when events are subject to the Code, like the Olympic Games and World Baseball Classic.

"Additionally, U.S. professional leagues and college athletics are already at risk of criminal prosecution under existing U.S. domestic law for orchestrating doping conspiracies.

"Any conspiracy to distribute and administer performance-enhancing drugs is already a felony under U.S. conspiracy, narcotics, and fraud laws, which carry stiff sentences."

Athlete groups view the Rodchenkov Act as tool to bring justice to the anti-doping effort.

WADA said it recognised positive elements of the U.S. bill but added that many of its members fear tit-for-tat legislation that would undermine the fight against doping.

"No nation has ever before asserted criminal jurisdiction over doping offences that occurred outside its national borders -- and for good reason," WADA added.

"WADA remains concerned that by unilaterally exerting U.S. criminal jurisdiction over all global doping activity, the Act will likely undermine clean sport by jeopardising critical partnerships and cooperation between nations."