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.
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.
“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 Bill is intended to provide a “statutory framework for the operation of NADA, the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL) and other dope testing laboratories and for creation of a National Board for Anti-Doping in Sports to strengthen anti-doping activities in sport."
The bill seeks to give NADA powers of “investigation, levying sanctions for Anti- Doping Rule Violations, the disciplinary procedures to be adopted and the powers of inspection, sample collection and sharing and free flow of information."
While endorsing the Bill “in its present form", the standing committee of the parliament made suggestions/recommendations be taken into account at appropriate stage.
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 recommended that in order to make information about the prohibited list easily accessible, a mechanism be developed like an App or dynamic website, where not only such a list be readily available but also information about various supplements, medicines with their ingredients, be made available so that cases of unintended consumption of a prohibited substance can be curtailed/avoided.
The Committee also put the onus of creating awareness on the Sports Ministry, the SAI, the federations, NADA and other stakeholders.
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.