Rio Olympics Backup Plan: Fly the Drug Tests to Paris

  • Organizers could ask sponsor TAM to transport 5,000 samples
  • WADA will review suspension of Brazil’s only drug-testing lab

Organizers of the Rio Olympics will ask the game’s official airline to fly athletes’ blood and urine samples to Paris for testing if Brazil’s only accredited laboratory is still suspended by the start of the Games on Aug. 5.

About 5,000 drug tests will be conducted during the Games, the most in Olympics history. The lab in Rio de Janeiro was suspended on June 24 after the World Anti-Doping Agency claimed it didn’t meet international standards.

Recent revelations of widespread doping in the Russian Federation have increased the pressure on the International Olympic Committee and WADA to assure drug-free competition. Staff at the Rio lab, including its head, have been replaced, and foreign experts will oversee operations at the laboratory and across games venues, Rio 2016 communications head Mario Andrada said in an interview.

"All the mistakes that WADA pointed out in the Brazilian laboratory have been fixed," Andrada said. "WADA is about to tell us what they want for games time. If they say the lab is not good enough, which is unlikely, we need to do the test abroad."

WADA is expected to announce a decision soon. If the lab fails again, organizers will call on Brazilian airline TAM. Because the airline is a top sponsor of the Rio Games, organizers won’t have to pay for sending several thousand samples to the French Anti-Doping Agency in Paris, Andrada said.

A spokesman for TAM wasn’t able to comment immediately.

WADA also suspended the lab’s accreditation in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup that took place in cities across Brazil. Tests then were sent to Switzerland.

Olympics organizers have been struggling to stay within the 7.4 billion reais ($2.,3 billion) budget and, with the Games two weeks away, continue to cut costs.

The IOC is currently deciding whether or not to ban Russian athletes from the games. Its track and field team has already been barred by that sport’s governing body.

"We understand WADA and the IOC have bigger problems to solve right now," Andrada said. "We are going to be next."

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