ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL ANTI-DOPING BILL, 2021

INTRODUCTION

On December 17, 2021, the National Anti-Doping Bill, 2021[1] was introduced in the Lok Sabha. The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) needs a statutory framework to be able to combat drug misuse in Indian sports and advise measures to strengthen the anti-doping environment, and this bill is intended to provide such a framework for them. “The use of illegal medications, substances, or therapies by athletes in order to improve sports performance is referred to as doping.”[2] Athletes have been doping for thousands of years. However, it has recently received considerable attention due to the wide range of availability of drugs that potentially improve performance. The bill prohibits athletes, athlete support staff, and other related members from doping in sports. Violations of anti-doping rules can lead to disqualification of results; confiscation of medals, points and prizes; inability to attend or participate in events.

THE BILL’S NECESSITY

In 2005, India signed the “United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization International Convention” prohibiting doping in sports.[3] After that, the Indian government established the NDTL (National Doping Testing Lab) in 2008[4] and NADA (National Anti-Doping Authority) in 2009[5] as societies under the Societies Registration Act. NADA’s functions include[6]: (i) enforcing World Anti-Doping Code anti-doping rules; (ii) administering doping control programmes; (iii) performing dope tests; and (iv) imposing fines for any breaches. NADA has no statutory authority and no anti-doping legislation in India. The Standing Committee on Sports (2021)[7] noted that anti-doping rules are not underpinned by legislation and are subject to legal challenge. It recommended the Department of Sports introduce anti-doping laws. India, with 225 positive tests out of 4,004 samples, had the most positive tests among WADA’s National Anti-Doping Organizations in 2019. This was followed by the United States, with 194 positive tests out of 11,213 samples, and Russia, with 85 positive tests out of 9,516 samples.[8]

KEY ASPECTS OF THE BILL

  1. Doping Prohibition: The Bill forbids athletes, their support personnel (coach, trainer, manager, team staff), and other people involved in sports from engaging in doping. These individuals should make sure that the following rules are not violated[9]:
  • Banned substance in the athlete’s house, or the banned substance is stamped on the athlete’s body.
  • Possessing a drug that is illegal or using or trying to use a drug that is illegal.
  • Refuse to give a sample.
  • Doing trade in prohibited substances
  • Covering up or helping in covering up a violation.

Athletes who need a restricted drug or treatment because of a medical condition can ask for a medical use exemption from the National Anti-Doping Agency.

  1. Implications of Violations- Individual athletes or athlete support personnel who violate anti-doping rules may face the following penalties:
  • Disqualification of the results, including the forfeiture of medals, points, and other awards.
  • For a fixed amount of time, ineligibility to compete or participate in an event.
  • Financial sanctions
  • Other specified consequences. Regulations will specify the consequences for team sports.
  1. The National Anti-Doping Agency: The National Anti-Doping Agency, which was founded as a society, is currently in charge of enforcing anti-doping rules. The Bill establishes the National Anti-Doping Agency as a statutory body.[10] The central government will designate a Director General to lead it.
  2. National Board for Anti-Doping in Sports- The bill creates the National Board for Anti-Doping in Sports, which will make anti-doping legislation and international anti-doping treaty compliance recommendations to the government. The agency’s actions will be supervised and directed by the Board. A chairperson and two members will be chosen by the national government to lead the board.
  3. Disciplinary and Appeal Panels- In addition to this, the Board will create a National Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel that will be responsible for deciding the repercussions of anti-doping rule infractions. This committee will have ten members, a chairman, four vice chairpersons, and four members serving as chairpersons.

The Board will also establish a National Anti-Doping Appeal Body to consider appeals against the following decisions:

  • Refusal to provide an exemption for medicinal or therapeutic use.
  • Levied penalties for anti-doping rule infractions or
  • Any other judgement as described.

The Appeal Panel will have a chairperson, a vice chairperson, and four other members. The chairperson will preside over the panel.[11]

MAJOR ISSUES OF THE BILL

  • Independence of the Director General of NADA

National Anti-Doping Organizations work for the public good and may be subject to rigorous national regulations. If they face external pressure from their governments and national sports bodies, which could jeopardise their choices on testing appropriate athletes, assessing doping rule violations, and imposing punishments against those found in violation, such organisations must be independent in their ability to make operational choices in order to ensure an effective and credible anti-doping system. The bill’s provisions may not entirely ensure NADA’s independence from the central government. The central government will prescribe the Director General’s qualifications and experience under the Bill.[12] Furthermore, the central government has the authority to remove the Director General from office for misbehaviour, incapacity, or “any other reason.”[13]

  • Reasons for the removal of members of the Disciplinary and Hearing Panels[14]

The National Board for Anti-Doping in Sports will form a Disciplinary Panel under the Bill to determine the repercussions of anti-doping rule infractions.[15] The Board will also form an Appeal Panel to hear appeals against Disciplinary Panel decisions. The Board has the authority to remove members of the Disciplinary Panel and Appeal Panel for reasons outlined in the Regulations adopted by it.[16] These grounds for removal are not mentioned in the Bill, allowing the Board to decide the grounds for removal by regulations. This may have an impact on the institutions’ ability to function independently.

  • Qualifications of members of the Disciplinary and Hearing Panels

According to WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency)[17] criteria, the members of the hearing panel must have anti-doping experience and collective competence in relevant sectors such as law, science, medicine, or sport. But the bill doesn’t say that anyone on the hearing panels has to have experience with anti-doping.

CONCLUSION

This Bill was needed by India as it was very important to control increasing doping activities in sports and also give statutory backing to NADA to ensure fair play in sports. This bill has many positive aspects, such as the authority to conduct raids, increased repercussions for violations, the establishment of dope testing laboratories across states, and many more. This bill covers all major issues related to doping activities. But this bill has some problems, such as the independence of the Director General and the reasons for getting rid of the disciplinary and hearing panels. If these problems are fixed, the bill will be more effective and clearer.

Author(s) Name: Ashutosh Yadav (Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow)

References:

[1] The National Anti-Doping Bill 2021

[2]‘What is doping and why do athlete do this?’ (American College of Medical Toxicology, 25 January 2017) <https://www.acmt.net/cgi/page.cgi/_zine.html/Ask_A_Toxicologist/What_is_doping_and_why_do_athletes_do_this>

[3] ‘The National Anti-Doping Bill,2021’(PRS India) https://prsindia.org/billtrack/the-national-anti-doping-bill-2021 accessed 5april 2022.

[4]Anti-doping bill, which empowers NADA, introduced in Lok Sabha’ (New Delhi , 18 December 2021)

[5] The Societies Registration Act, 1860

[6] National Anti Doping Agency (Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports) <https://www.nadaindia.org/en/about-us>

[7] Standing Committee, Demands for Grants 2021-22 of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (Report NO. 325,2021)

[8] ‘The National Anti-Doping Bill,2021’(PRS India) <https://prsindia.org/billtrack/the-national-anti-doping-bill-2021>

[9] The National Anti-Doping Bill 2021, s 3.

[10] The National Anti-Doping Bill 2021, s 7.

[11] The National Anti-Doping Bill 2021, s 12.

[12] The National Anti-Doping Bill 2021, s 15.

[13] The National Anti-Doping Bill 2021, s 15.

[14] The National Anti-Doping Bill 2021, s 11.

[15] The National Anti-Doping Bill 2021, s 11.

[16] The National Anti-Doping Bill 2021, s 11.

[17] ‘The National Anti-Doping Bill,2021’(PRS India) <https://prsindia.org/billtrack/the-national-anti-doping-bill-2021>

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