A laboratory in Rio de Janeiro responsible for drug testing at the Summer Olympics has been suspended by the world doping regulator just six weeks before the Brazilian city hosts the event. The suspension is an embarrassment to the city after Rio de Janeiro state government declared a state of financial emergency ahead of the games, which start Aug. 5.
The World Anti-Doping Agency said Friday it imposed the ban after the laboratory at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro failed to comply with international standards. The suspension took effect June 22, WADA said in a statement. The laboratory may appeal against the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport within 21 days of receiving the notice.
“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,” Olivier Niggli, WADA’s incoming director general, said in the statement.
While WADA did not say how the laboratory failed to comply with international standards, an unnamed source told Reuters that technical errors resulting in false positives were likely the reason for the suspension. The lab said that it expected its operations to return to normal in July following a technical visit from WADA.
“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.”
The laboratory is the sixth to be under WADA’s scanner in recent months. Testing facilities in Beijing, Lisbon, Madrid and Bloemfontein in South Africa have also been suspended by WADA, and accreditation of Moscow’s laboratory was revoked in April. The closest alternative WADA-accredited lab to Rio is 2,800 miles away in Bogota, Colombia.
The Rio Olympic Games are the first to be held in South America. The Olympics will begin Aug. 5 and continue till Aug. 21, while the Paralympics will be held Sept. 7-18. Rio is expecting about 500,000 foreign visitors during the games.