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Rio 2016 hit by fresh blow as Wada suspends doping control laboratory

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has suspended the accreditation of the Brazilian Doping Control Laboratory in Rio de Janeiro with little over a month remaining until the Olympic Games commence in the city.

Wada on Friday evening said the suspension was issued due to a non-conformity with the International Standard for Laboratories (ISL). Further details were not disclosed, but the Reuters news agency said technical errors leading to false positives were the likely cause of the suspension.

The suspension took effect on June 22 when the Rio Laboratory was notified and prohibits the site from carrying out all anti-doping analyses on urine and blood samples. It may appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). “In the meantime, Wada will work closely with the Rio Laboratory to resolve the identified issue,” Olivier Niggli, Wada’s incoming director general, said in a statement.

“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. 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.”

Wada’s decision is the latest blow for the Rio lab after lack of credentials forced testing during football’s 2014 Fifa World Cup to take place in Switzerland. Ahead of the Olympics, Brazil invested R$188m (€48.2m/$54.4m) in upgrades for the lab, which was recertified by Wada last year.

In March, the Brazilian government voted to pass new anti-doping legislation in a move that brought the country in line with guidelines set out by Wada ahead of the Olympics. In November, Brazil was named by Wada as one of one of several countries that did not comply with its anti-doping regulations.

Rio 2016 organising committee spokesman Mario Andrada admitted the latest episode is another major setback for Brazil and Rio ahead of the Games. “This is another severe blow,” he told the Associated Press news agency. “We might not resolve this lab situation before the Games. We might have to choose another lab outside Brazil to do the tests. But this will be under the instruction and guidance of Wada.”

If the Rio lab is not reinstated within six weeks other Wada-accredited centres in the Americas include Los Angeles and Salt Lake City in the US, Bogota in Colombia and Mexico City. However, both the Rio lab and the Brazilian Anti-Doping Agency (ABCD) have expressed their confidence the conformity issue can be resolved ahead of the Olympics.

“The lab expects its operations to return to normal in July after a visit from Wada’s technical committee,” the Rio laboratory said in a statement. The ABCD added it was “confident that the institution will take all the necessary procedures” to have the provisional suspension lifted.