The World Anti-Doping Agency has suspended the doping laboratory in Rio that was to be responsible for drug testing at this year’s Olympics, citing procedural errors that were described by WADA director general David Howman as “pretty disturbing.” Howman, who made his comment to a New Zealand website called Stuff, added that it’s unlikely the lab will be up and running again in time for the Rio Olympics, meaning athletes’ blood and urine samples might have to be flown to Switzerland for testing.
It’s the second time Rio’s doping laboratory has failed inspection ahead of a major sporting event: Rio’s doping lab also was suspended for the 2014 World Cup because of testing errors that are thought to be similar to this year’s mistakes. Samples from that event were sent off to Switzerland at a cost of $250,000, and the suspension was eventually lifted in May 2015.
“This lab produced a whole list of false positives, and falsely accusing people is top of the pile of serious issues,” Howman said in 2014.
The lab now has 21 days to appeal WADA’s decision to the Court of Arbitration for sport. The Olympics begin Aug. 5. Until then, WADA will transport samples to another accredited laboratory.
“The Agency will ensure that, for the time being, samples that would have been intended for the Laboratory, will be transported securely, promptly and with a demonstrable chain of custody to another WADA-accredited laboratory worldwide,” Olivier Niggli, who is set to replace Howman as WADA director general, said in a statement. “This will ensure that there are no gaps in the anti-doping sample analysis procedures; and that, the integrity of the samples is fully maintained.
“Athletes can have confidence that the suspension will only be lifted by WADA when the Laboratory is operating optimally; and that, the best solution will be put in place to ensure that sample analysis for the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games is robust.”