China formally criminalized doping after its top legislature voted to adopt Amendment XI to its criminal law on Saturday, Dec.26, state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua reported Monday.
The law, which will officially come into effect on March 1, 2021, isn’t aimed toward athletes, but rather the team surrounding them.
The rule says that anyone who lures, instigates or cheats athletes into using banned substances in either domestic or international competitions faces up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine. Heavier punishments are reserved for those organizing or forcing athletes into using banned substances, while knowingly offering banned substances in athletes is also a criminal offense.
“The law isn’t aimed at athletes, because cheating athletes will be punished by bans and fines in accordance with the anti-doping rules,” said Chen Zhiyu, executive director of the China Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA).
“This criminal law is more focusing on punishing those behind the scenes as it has been widely recognized athletes’ entourage usually play an important role in doping schemes and should be given more severe punishments.
“If not for the criminal punishments, the entourage could still secretly work with athletes even after they are banned and fined.”
According to Yu Chong, a deputy professor at China University of Political Science and Law, the new rule is in response to the International Olympic Committee’s call for stricter anti-doping rules.
At the IOC summit in October of 2016, the organization asked UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) to provide model legislation to make the “entourage of athletes criminally responsible for facilitating doping”, including coaches, doctors and physiotherapists.
“It shows China’s efforts to meet the IOC’s requirement,” said Yu. “At the same time, it links criminal law and executive regulations in the fight against doping.”
The United States passed a bill criminalizing doping in early December, though the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act was signed into law to give U.S. prosecutors the ability to go after non-American citizens for doping schemes that impacted the results of international events involving U.S. athletes.
Germany passed a law that criminalizes both athletes and suppliers of performance-enhancing drugs back in late 2015.