The National Anti-Doping Bill which was presented to Parliament last year lacked ‘tough criminal provisions’ as it was meant to be ‘preventive legislation’ although it authorizes the National Anti-Doping Agency to carry out raids to catch offenders. , said the Ministry of Sports.
In a report prepared by a standing committee of parliament and submitted to both houses on Wednesday, the ministry said the bill had been prepared “in accordance with the idea of making it preventive legislation rather than criminal legislation”. “…the penalties/sanctions provided for in the bill were based on international anti-doping provisions and it was kept in mind that harsh penal provisions are not being introduced,” the sports secretary told members of the standing committee.
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Section 19 of the bill, however, grants NADA the power to “enter, search and seize by any person authorized by the agency for the purpose of determining whether an anti-doping rule violation has occurred.” .
“The procedure to be adopted will be in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973.” Previously, NADA did not have the authority to conduct raids and its anti-doping appeal board held the same. Many former athletes, heads of national sports federations and pundits have called for anti-doping legislation to give more teeth to the existing rules established under WADA’s anti-doping code.
Some had even gone so far as to call for making doping in sport a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment. In 2018, NADA even proposed making doping a criminal offence.
The standing committee suggested that “appropriate safeguards could be provided to protect the rights of athletes and to address issues of confidentiality” while establishing the procedure for conducting raids.
Regarding concerns over the increasing use of dietary supplements by athletes without any regulation, the ministry informed that it will seek assistance from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and that laboratory testing of these supplements are made compulsory from April of this year.
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“Rules in this regard have already been developed and the FSSAI is in the process of rolling them out,” the sports secretary had told the committee.
The bill, which aims to give legislative support to anti-doping standards in the country, was introduced in parliament by Sports Minister Anurag Thakur in December last year.
It was then referred to a standing committee made up of members of both Houses of Parliament for consideration and report.
After hearing from the secretary and senior officials of the Ministry of Sports, various federations, leading sportsmen, organizations and individuals, the committee, under the chairmanship of MP Rajya Sabha Vinay P Sahasrabudhe, tabled its report in the two rooms on Wednesday.
The Committee suggested that a distinction be made between underage and overage athletes when formulating the rules so that a protection mechanism is available for the former.
The committee said an explanation should be included in the rules to clarify what constitutes an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV).
The Committee insisted on the “need to ensure that the quantum of sanctions imposed is proportional to the extent/degree of the proven doping violation”. The Committee also felt the need to separate the prosecuting agency (NADA) and the anti-doping panels both functionally and administratively.