The National Anti-Doping Bill, 2021, The Bill prohibits athletes, athlete support personnel and other persons from engaging in doping in sports.
- It is the consumption of certain prohibited substances by athletes to enhance performance.
- In November, 1999 the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was set up under the International Olympic Committee.
- WADA is recognised by the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport (2005).
- WADA’s primary role is to develop, harmonise, and coordinate anti-doping regulations across all sports and countries.
- It does so by ensuring proper implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADA Code) and its standards, conducting investigations into doping incidents, conducting research on doping, and educating sportspersons and related personnel on anti-doping regulations.
- WADA publishes the list of prohibited substances at least once a year and distributes it to all the signatories.
- Use of prohibited substances is exempted if needed for therapeutic use, as specified.
- According to WADA, in 2019, most of the doping rule violations were committed in bodybuilding (22%), followed by athletics (18%), cycling (14%), and weightlifting (13%)
- Prohibition of doping: The Bill prohibits athletes, athlete support personnel and other persons from engaging in doping in sport. Support personnel includes the coach, trainer, manager, team staff, medical personnel, and other persons working with or treating or assisting an athlete. These persons must ensure that there is no violation of the following rules: (i) presence of prohibited substances or their markers in an athlete’s body, (ii) use, attempted use or possession of prohibited substances or methods, (iii) refusing to submit a sample, (iv) trafficking or attempted trafficking in prohibited substances or methods, and (v) aiding or covering up such violations. If any athlete requires a prohibited substance or method due to a medical condition, they may apply to the National Anti-Doping Agency for a therapeutic use exemption.
- Consequences of violations: Anti-doping rule violation by an individual athlete or athlete support personnel may result in: (i) disqualification of results including forfeiture of medals, points, and prizes, (ii) ineligibility to participate in a competition or event for a prescribed period, (iii) financial sanctions, and (iv) other consequences as may be prescribed. Consequences for team sports will be specified by regulations. Consequences for a violation will be determined by the National Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel after a hearing.
- National Anti-Doping Agency: Currently, anti-doping rules are implemented by the National Anti-Doping Agency, which was established as a society. The Bill provides for constituting this National Anti-Doping Agency as a statutory body. It will be headed by a Director General appointed by the central government. Functions of the Agency include: (i) planning, implementing, and monitoring anti-doping activities, (ii) investigating anti-doping rule violations, and (iii) promoting anti-doping research.
- Data related to athletes and doping: The Agency will also have the power to collect certain personal data of athletes such as: (a) sex or gender, (ii) medical history, and (iii) whereabout information of athletes (for out of competition testing and collection of samples). The Agency will prescribe the procedure for collection, usage, processing, and disclosure of such personal data. It will publicly disclose certain information such as the name of the athlete, the anti-doping rule violated, and the consequences imposed.
- National Board for Anti-Doping in Sports: The Bill establishes a National Board for Anti-Doping in Sports to make recommendations to the government on anti-doping regulation and compliance with international commitments on anti-doping. The Board will oversee the activities of the Agency and issue directions to it. The Board will consist of a Chairperson and two members appointed by the central government.
- Disciplinary and Appeal Panels: The Board will constitute a National Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel for determining consequences of anti-doping rule violations. This Panel will consist of a Chairperson and four Vice-Chairpersons (all legal experts), and ten members (medical practitioners and retired eminent athletes).
- The Board will also constitute a National Anti-Doping Appeal Panel to hear appeals against: (i) refusal to grant therapeutic use exemption, (ii) imposition of consequences for anti-doping rule violation, or (iii) any other decision as prescribed. The Appeal Panel will consist of: (i) a Chairperson (a retired High Court judge), (ii) a Vice-Chairperson (a legal expert), and (iii) four members (medical practitioners and retired eminent athletes). Appeals against the decision of the Appeal Panel will lie with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (an international body with headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, that settles sport related disputes).
- Dope Testing Laboratories: The existing National Dope Testing Laboratory will be deemed to be the principal dope testing laboratory. The central government may establish more National Dope Testing Laboratories.
- There are two issues related to the Director General of NADA. First, the qualifications of the Director General are not specified in the Bill and are left to be notified through Rules. Second, the central government may remove the Director General from the office on grounds of misbehavior or incapacity or “such other ground”.
- Leaving these provisions to the discretion of the central government may affect the independence of the Director General. This also goes against the mandate of the World Anti-Doping Agency that such bodies must be independent in their operations.
- Under the Bill, the Board has powers to remove the members of the Disciplinary Panel and Appeal Panel on grounds which will be specified by regulations and are not specified in the Bill.
- Further, there is no requirement to give them an opportunity of being heard. This may affect the independent functioning of these panels.