Members of the U.S. Congress believe that corruption in international sports requires action. This week the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act (RADA) was introduced in both houses of Congress with bipartisan sponsors — Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Representatives Michael Burgess (R-TX–26) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX–18).
The bill is named after Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory and the whistleblower who, in 2016, exposed the sophisticated Russian state-sponsored doping scandal that tainted the Sochi Olympics.
The bill will establish criminal penalties for participating in schemes using prohibited substances. It will provide restitution to the victims and will protect whistleblowers from retaliation.
This bill will advance the important goals of ensuring that athletes are “clean” and preserving the integrity of international sports competitions. But its significance goes further. During the Sochi Olympics, the masterminds of the doping scandal not only cheated U.S. athletes out of possible medals; they also used bribes and illicit payments, sometimes through U.S. financial institutions, to commit fraud and perpetuate corruption.
Corruption in international sports — one of the world’s largest industries — takes many additional forms, from bribes paid to influence hosting decisions for major events to match-fixing on a mind-boggling scale. Doping, whether undertaken independently or with state support, goes hand-in-hand with these other nefarious forms of graft.
The phenomenon of doping in international sports should be understood as part of a deeply malicious set of practices that threaten to undermine not just athletic integrity, but also the trust we place in our systems of transnational governance. Greater oversight, transparency, and accountability are urgently needed to ensure good governance and enhance legitimacy, and committed U.S. leadership is critical to this endeavor.
The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act is a good first step toward seizing ground back from those who would corrupt, dupe, and defraud the international sports community.
Alexandra Wrage, pictured above, is president and founder of TRACE. She is the author or editor of five books about anti-bribery compliance and the hidden costs of corruption, and the host of the financial crime podcast Bribe, Swindle or Steal. She’s a former member of FIFA’s failed Independent Governance Committee. She will chair the upcoming Economic Crime Summit in Vancouver in June.