Congresswoman Diana DeGette

Representing the First District of Colorado
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DeGette files bill to make doping at international competitions, such as Olympics, a crime

Jan 29, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC – U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) sponsored legislation introduced today to make it a federal crime to engage in a doping scheme designed to influence the outcome of a major international athletic competition, such as the Olympics.

The move comes one week after the World Anti-Doping Agency refused to uphold the suspension of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency for its role in the 2014 Russian state-sponsored doping scandal that took place at the Sochi Olympics.

The legislation would establish new criminal penalties for anyone caught engaging in a doping scheme at any major international sport competition that is either broadcast in the U.S., sponsored by U.S. companies, or in which U.S. athletes participate.

Under the terms of the bill, those found guilty of engaging in such a scheme would face fines of up to $1,000,000 or imprisonment up to ten years, depending on the offense.

“We are not going to sit back and let these bad actors continue to cheat at these games and walk away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist,” DeGette said.

The Colorado Democrat, whose state is home to the U.S. Olympic training facility and United States Anti-Doping Agency, said it’s important that the U.S. government send a very clear message to others around the World that this type of behavior will no longer be tolerated.

“These athletes have trained their whole lives for the chance to compete on the World stage,” DeGette said. “The outcomes of these competitions has far-reaching consequences – not just for the athletes themselves, but for the countries they represent - and we need to act now to ensure that everyone is competing on a level playing field.”

In addition to making it a crime to participate in a doping scheme, the bill would also enable athletes who become victims of such a scheme to seek restitution from those responsible. It would also create new protections for whistleblowers and increase cooperation among the various U.S. agencies charged with investigating alleged doping conspiracies.

In 2016, Dr. 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 sports doping operation escaped punishment for their actions because there was no U.S. legal mechanism to bring them to justice.

In February 2017, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee led by DeGette held a hearing on combating fraud in sports and the role of whistleblowers in safeguarding the integrity of international competitions.

In July, the Helsinki Commission, which has spearheaded anti-doping efforts alongside the Energy and Commerce Committee, 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 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 actively promote media coverage to further a narrative favorable to the Russian government.

The bill now heads to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.