Key House committee advances bill to enhance U.S. anti-doping efforts ahead of 2028 Olympic games in L.A.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A key U.S. House committee voted today to advance legislation to continue funding the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency through 2029 to ensure the agency has the funding it needs to police the upcoming 2028 Olympic games in Los Angeles.
The legislation – introduced by U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) – will provide USADA the resources it needs to prepare for the 2028 Olympic games. It also requires USADA to dedicate a portion of its funding to programs designed to further protect young athletes from the pressure of using performance enhancing drugs, and will allow the agency to work directly with other U.S. federal law enforcement agencies to prevent the use of such substances by athletes at all levels.
“Our nation’s Olympic athletes train their entire lives to represent our country on the world stage,” DeGette said. “We have to do more to ensure they have a chance to compete on a level playing field.”
DeGette, whose home state of Colorado is home to both the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, is chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigation’s panel, which has direct oversight of our nation’s Olympic committees.
In addition to sponsoring the legislation approved today to continuing funding USADA, DeGette introduced a separate measure in January 2019 – the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act – that would make it a crime to engage in a doping scheme at any international sports competition that’s broadcast in the U.S., sponsored by U.S. companies, or in which a U.S. athlete participates.
Under the terms of DeGette’s bill, anyone involved in such a scheme could be fined up to $1,000,000 or imprisoned for up to ten years, depending on the nature of the offense.
“We are not going to sit back and allow these bad actors to continue to cheat and walk away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist when they’re caught,” DeGette said in reference to the 2019 bill. “We need to send a very clear to the rest of the world that this type of behavior will no longer be tolerated.”
The issue made headlines in 2016 when Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory, came forward with information that exposed a Russian state-sponsored doping scheme that took place during the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi.
According to Dr. Rodchenkov, Russian officials swapped athletes’ samples to hide the performance enhancing drugs their athletes had taken. As a result, the Russian agents cheated many U.S. athletes out of their rightful place in Olympic history and caused direct financial harm to a number of U.S. corporations that had sponsored them.
Despite being exposed, those involved in the Russian doping operation were never punished for their actions because there was no U.S. legal mechanism in place to bring them to justice.
Months after the allegations were first made, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations panel – now led by DeGette – held a hearing in February 2017 to discuss how the U.S. government can better combat doping at international competitions, such as the Olympics.
The following year, the Helsinki Commission, which has worked closely with the Energy and Commerce Committee, held a hearing of its own in July 2018 to explore the relationship between doping fraud at such events and globalized corruption.
In October 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted seven individuals for their involvement in a Russian military intelligence operation that allegedly hacked the U.S. and international anti-doping agencies leading the investigation into Russia’s state-sponsored doping program.
“By reauthorizing the USADA’s important work through at least 2029, we are sending a clear message to the rest of the world that we are not going to tolerate such behavior here in the U.S.,” DeGette said.
The legislation, which the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved today by a voice vote, now heads to the full House for consideration.