Winter Olympics: US anti-doping act should be used at Beijing Games - Usada chief

The act allows US authorities to prosecute foreign athletes or officials outside the United States. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - An anti-doping act that allows American authorities to prosecute foreign athletes or officials outside the United States should be applied at the Beijing Winter Olympics if US competitors are affected, the country's anti-doping chief said on Friday (Feb 11).

The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act (Rada), signed into law in the United States in 2020, gives US authorities the power to prosecute individuals for doping schemes at international events involving American athletes, sponsors or broadcasters.

The Rada bill empowers prosecutors to seek fines of up to US$1 million (S$1.34 million) and jail terms of up to 10 years. It was named after Grigory Rodchenkov, a former Russia anti-doping laboratory head who turned whistle blower and helped expose Russia's state-sponsored doping.

While there have been no confirmed doping cases involving high-profile athletes in Beijing, Russian teenage sensation, 15-year-old Kamila Valieva, who won gold for the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in the figure skating team event, has been training under a cloud, with Russian media saying she had tested positive. Russian newspapers RBC and Kommersant have named the drug as Trimetazidine, which is typically used to treat angina.

The United States won silver and Japan were third in the event.

"I think all those who value clean sport would absolutely be advocating for that (application of Rodchenkov act)," Travis Tygart, head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada), told Reuters Television on Friday.

"Many of us were disappointed in the initial state-sponsored doping (in Russia) that was exposed back in 2015, that those who orchestrated and conspired to abuse young athletes ... were not held accountable by their sport or their own governments."

Russian athletes at the Games are not competing under their flag, and their anthem is not played at any ceremonies following sanctions imposed for widespread doping across many sports exposed after the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

The sanctions are due to be lifted at the end of the year, but the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency cautioned earlier this month that Russia should not assume this would happen automatically.

The ROC won the team event at the Beijing Olympics on Monday, but the medal ceremony has yet to take place due to 'legal consultations' according to the International Olympic Committee. No details have been made public.

"The wall of silence is deafening and it's exactly why athletes and the public do not trust the leaders of global sport to protect their rights," Tygart said.

"The athletes and public deserve answers and a full, open and independent accounting of what has and is happening. There is no excuse for the lack of transparency given what is at stake."

Valieva has remained calm and silent since the storm broke, again taking to the ice on Friday for practice. She is still scheduled to take part in the women's singles event on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Katarina Witt, one of the sport's greats, offered her support to the Russian, pointing her finger at the teenager's entourage.

"As an athlete, you always follow the advice of your confidants, in this case she probably followed her coach and medical team," Witt, who won Olympic gold for East Germany in 1984 and 1988, said.

"It is a shame, and the responsible adults should be banned from the sport forever!!! What they knowingly did to her, if true, cannot be surpassed in inhumanity and makes my athlete's heart cry infinitely."

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