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Criminalizing sports doping

Doping is criminalised in countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Kenya and Spain. Russia, which has had 41 Olympians stripped of their medals for doping violations, have followed suit with the criminalisation of doping in sports since 2017.

While these countries have established penalties for sports doping within their borders, the United States of America wants to extend this at a global level.

Earlier this week, the US lawmakers have introduced a bill in the House that would see prison time for the use, manufacturing or distribution of performance-enhancing drugs in global competitions.

Offenders could face up to five years in prison as well a maximum of USD250,000 fine for individuals and USD1 million for organisations.

The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping bill, takes its name from whistleblower Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, whose revelation of the state-sponsored doping in Russia led to the sanction of the Russian athletes at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

If the statute is passed, American prosecutors would be able to act on doping violations abroad. Any event with at least three different nations participating apart from the USA would come under scrutiny. At least four Americans must be participants or two American companies sponsoring the given event, to authorise the prosecution in case of any doping violations.

It would also authorizes civil actions for doping fraud, giving athletes who may have been cheated in competitions — as well as corporations acting as sponsors — the right to sue in federal court to recover damages from people who may have defrauded competitions.

There will be a window of seven years for criminal actions and 10 years for civil lawsuits.

This is in contrast with many other countries including Malaysia, where very little discussion of criminalisation of doping in sport has taken place.

In Britain, the issue was looked into last year, and the sports Minister Tracey Crouch, discarded any prospect of drugs cheats in British sport facing criminal prosecution.

Instead he recommended increased anti-doping measures, more random testing and improved education into drugs.

Would criminalisation of sports doping really help in curbing it?

While some believe that sports doping continues to increase because it is not sufficiently punished, there are others who also believe that doping should be allowed with proper monitoring.

Long-time Olympic Council of Malaysia official Datuk Sieh Kok Chi said that the issue of doping has not been explained clearly by the authorities.

“Performance enhancing is a very subjective matter. There is still a lot of confusion that must be looked into. For example if a diver takes weight loss medications, how does that correlate to him improving his performance?” Kok Chi questioned.

In recent years, Malaysia have had a number of doping violations including the case of national weightlifters suspended after testing positive at the recent Commonwealth Games.

The most high profile of the Malaysians caught in this imbroglio, was shuttler Lee Chong Wei, who had to serve an eight month ban after testing positive for the anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone.

Kok Chi pointed out that smoking marijuana, legal in a number of states in the US, but illegal elsewhere is an example of how legislations in this issue would be contradictory.

He added that the biggest benefactors would in fact be the anti-doping agencies.

“They would be traveling all over the world, muscling into events to enforce doping strategies while not having a clear explanation for many of the issues in performance enhancement,” he said.

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