By Stephen Wade
AP Sports Writer
RIO DE JANEIRO — Just weeks before the Olympic Games open in Rio de Janeiro, the city’s accredited anti-doping laboratory has been stopped from conducting tests.
The World Anti-Doping Agency said Friday it has suspended the lab’s accreditation due to “non-conformity with the International Standard for Laboratories.” It did not give details of the non-conformity.
The suspension is an embarrassment to Brazil and Rio so close to the games, which will open Aug. 5 after months of political turmoil and financial crisis for federal, state and city authorities.
“This is another severe blow,” Mario Andrada, the spokesman of the Rio Games organizing committee, told The Associated Press.
“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 in the next six weeks, other testing centers with WADA accreditation include: UCLA in Los Angeles; Salt Lake City, Utah; Bogota, Colombia; Havana, Cuba; and Mexico City.
In a statement, the International Olympic Committee said the suspension would not “affect either the integrity or the scope of the testing program” at the games.
The IOC said it will “decide which accredited laboratory to use after the assessment by WADA, which is the body responsible for the accreditation of anti-doping laboratories.”
However, officials at the Rio lab believe the conformity issue can still be solved in time.
“The lab expects its operations to return to normal in July after a visit from WADA’s technical committee,” the laboratory said in a statement.
That view was shared by Brazil’s anti-doping authority, known as ABCD and run by the sports ministry.
The authority said it was “confident that the institution will take all the necessary procedures” to have the provisional suspension lifted.
It’s not the first time that the Rio lab has been suspended by WADA. It was also brought to a halt in 2012 after a false positive test result.
The agency’s latest move “prohibits the laboratory from carrying out all anti-doping analyses on urine and blood samples,” WADA said in a statement.
Samples collected from athletes in Brazil during the interim ban will be transported to a lab in another country for testing, it added.
“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,” WADA’s incoming director general Olivier Niggli said.
Niggli added that the agency “will work closely with the Rio Laboratory to resolve the identified issue.”
The laboratory can appeal against the suspension to the Court of Arbitration for Sport within 21 days.
FIFA found a solution to being without a lab during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Then, samples taken from soccer players were flown to be tested at a WADA-accredited lab in Lausanne, Switzerland. No blood samples missed the deadline of being tested within 36 hours of being given by an athlete.