Anti-Doping Bill a preventive legislation, not criminal law: Ministry tells standing committee

The Bill, which seeks to give legislative backing to anti-doping norms in the country, was introduced to the Parliament by Sports Minister Anurag Thakur in December last year.

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Many former sportspersons have even gone to the extent of calling for making doping in sports a criminal offence, punishable with jail term. In 2018, the NADA had even proposed making doping a criminal offence. (Representative Image)   -  M. Srinath

The National Anti-Doping Bill that was introduced in the Parliament last year did not have "severe criminal law provisions" as it was intended to be a "preventive legislation" though it empowers the National Anti-Doping Agency to conduct raids to catch dope offenders, the Sports Ministry said.

In a report prepared by a standing committee of the Parliament and submitted to both the Houses on Wednesday, the ministry said the Bill was prepared "in alignment with the idea of making this a preventive legislation, rather than a criminal legislation." "...the punishment/penalties provided in the Bill were based on international anti-doping provisions and it has been kept in mind that severe criminal law provisions are not introduced," the Sports Secretary told the standing committee members.

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Clause 19 of the Bill, however, provides the NADA the power of "entry, search and seizure by any person authorised by the agency for the purpose of determining if any anti-doping rule violation has been committed".

"The procedure to be adopted shall be in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973." Earlier, the NADA had no authority to conduct raids and its anti-doping appeal panel has held the same. Many former sportspersons, head of National Sports Federations and experts have been calling for an anti-doping legislation to give more teeth to the existing rules made under the WADA Anti-Doping Code.

Some had even gone to the extent of calling for making doping in sports a criminal offence, punishable with jail term. In 2018, the NADA had even proposed making doping a criminal offence.

The standing committee suggested that "due safeguards may be provided to protect the rights of athletes and to address the issues of privacy" while laying down the procedure to conduct raids.

Regarding concerns over increasing use of dietary supplements by athletes without any regulation, the ministry informed that it will take help of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and lab testing of these supplements is being made mandatory from April this year.

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"Rules in this regard have already been framed and FSSAI is in the process of rolling them out," the sports secretary had told the committee.

The Bill, which seeks to give legislative backing to anti-doping norms in the country, was introduced to the Parliament by Sports Minister Anurag Thakur in December last year.

It was later referred to a standing committee comprising members of both the Houses of the Parliament for examination and report.

After hearing the secretary and senior officials of Sports Ministry, various federations, prominent sportspersons, organisations and individuals, the Committee, under the chairmanship of Rajya Sabha MP Vinay P Sahasrabudhe, tabled its report in both the Houses on Wednesday.

The Committee suggested that a distinction should be made between minor and major athletes while formulating the rules so that a protective mechanism is available to the former.

The Committee said explanation should be included in the rules so as to provide clarity in respect of what constitutes an Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV).

The Committee stressed on the "need to ensure that the quantum of penalties imposed are proportional to the extent/degree of the proven doping violation." The Committee also felt the need to separate prosecuting agency (NADA) and the Anti-Doping Panels both functionally and administratively.

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