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 no harsh criminal provision is introduced,” the sports secretary told members of the standing committee.
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.
“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 backing 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, prominent 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 bill seeks to provide a “statutory framework for the operation of NADA, the National Doping Control Laboratory (NDTL) and other doping control laboratories and for the establishment of a National Anti-Doping Council in sport in order to strengthen anti-doping activities in sport.
The bill seeks to give NADA powers “to investigate, impose sanctions for anti-doping rule violations, disciplinary procedures to be adopted, and powers to inspect, collect and share samples and free flow of information”.
While approving the bill “in its present form”, the permanent committee of the parliament made suggestions/recommendations to be taken into account at the appropriate time.
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 recommended that in order to make the information on the prohibited list easily accessible, a mechanism should be developed such as an application or a dynamic website, where not only such a list is readily available, but also information on various supplements, drugs with their ingredients, are made available so that instances of unintentional consumption of a prohibited substance can be reduced/avoided.
The Committee has also assigned responsibility for awareness raising to the Ministry of Sports, ISC, Federations, NADA and other stakeholders.
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.