Brazil Seeks Fast Track to Approval of Olympics Drug-Testing LabTariq Panja
The World Anti-Doping Agency could fast track an application from Brazil’s new drug-testing laboratory to ensure a facility is in place for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the country’s top anti-doping official said.
Brazil, which will become the first South American Olympics host, suffered a setback in August when an existing laboratory, Rio’s LAB DOP-LADETEC/IQ-UFRJ Doping Control Laboratory, or LADETEC, had its accreditation to carry out analysis revoked by WADA following repeated failures.
The closing means drug testing for next year’s soccer World Cup will be sent to overseas labs, according to Marco Aurelio Klein, executive director of Autoridade Brasileira de Controle de Dopagem, Brazil’s state-funded anti-doping authority.
The new laboratory, part of an 80 million reais ($36.3 million) project, is currently under construction and will be operational by September 2014, Klein said. WADA’s accreditation can begin once the facility is up and running.
“If they think it’s going as well as we expect them to, we will have new accreditation from July or maybe August 2015,” Klein said yesterday in a telephone interview. “That’s in good time for the Olympics and Paralympics. Without fast track, it takes much longer.”
A fast-track review could take “many months,” WADA said in an e-mailed statement.
“There cannot be any short cuts with a laboratory because any mistake could ruin an athlete’s career,” Andy Parkinson, chief executive of the British anti-doping agency UKAD, said in a telephone interview. “If you get the lab wrong, you are putting athletes’ careers at risk or letting cheats go free.”
Klein described the loss of LADETEC as “a disaster,” saying it was at the center of Brazil’s first national anti-doping program. The lab had been at risk of losing its status for about two years as it racked up penalty points from WADA. LADETEC passed a threshold that required its closure after failing a blind test by not detecting illegal substances in samples sent by WADA.
Klein recently traveled to WADA’s Montreal headquarters to understand exactly what the new lab will require.
“The maximum WADA can demand is we need a brand new lab, and we are constructing a brand new lab,” he said.
Of immediate concern is the World Cup, which starts June
12. Soccer’s governing body FIFA had wanted to find a solution in Brazil, though that won’t be possible, Klein said. Instead, urine and blood samples will be taken in Brazil and sent overseas for analysis.
Klein said blood probably will be sent to a facility in Lausanne, Switzerland, and urine to a laboratory in Lisbon. Approval is needed from FIFA.
“We are working to provide the best solution,” he said. “This will be discussed with FIFA, and if it’s OK with FIFA then we’ll submit the plan to WADA.”
FIFA will conduct about 900 tests before and during the month-long tournament. The Zurich-based soccer body said “it’s still too early to draw any conclusion” over how tests at the World Cup will be conducted.
“FIFA, jointly with WADA and the governmental authorities, is still evaluating the situation and considering different alternatives,” FIFA said in a statement.
Klein said he and Brazil’s deputy sports minister, Luis Fernandes, will meet soon with Jiri Dvorak, FIFA’s chief medical officer, and the organization’s head of anti-doping, Tania Vogel, to discuss his plan.
Sending samples abroad during the Olympics is not an option. Klein said he expects about 6,000 tests to be conducted during the 2 1/2-weeklong games.
“The Olympic Games is a unique anti-doping program that requires testing a huge volume of samples,” said UKAD’s Parkinson. “There’s no lab in the world that can deliver an Olympic Games-scale program over such a short amount of time.”