Only anti-doping lab in Africa suspended for testing faults 5 months before Paris Olympics

MONTREAL (AP) — Less than five months before the Paris Olympics, the World Anti-Doping Agency suspended work at the only approved testing laboratory in Africa late Monday.

WADA said accreditation for the lab in Bloemfontein, South Africa, was removed for up to six months because of faults with a testing method to detect use of steroids by athletes.

Samples from Bloemfontein now “must be securely transported to another WADA-accredited laboratory,” the global watchdog said.

“This is in order to ensure continued high-quality sample analysis, which also helps preserve athletes’ confidence in this process and the wider anti-doping system,” WADA said.

The nearest of WADA’s 30 approved testing labs to South Africa are in Qatar — a 6,600-kilometer (4,100-mile) flight from Bloemfontein to Doha — India, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.

Collecting samples from remote athlete training centers and transporting them long distances to labs increases the risk they will degrade and be unusable for testing.

Those labs also can be involved in testing all future samples collected from athletes in Africa, including as part of a global anti-doping program ahead of the Paris Olympics that open on July 26.

WADA said restrictions on just the IRMS analytical method of testing were first imposed on the South African lab in September.

“Multiple nonconformities” in Bloemfontein’s work were then noted last month by an expert panel advising WADA, the Montreal-based agency said.

The suspension of all testing in Bloemfontein took effect last Friday, though it can be lifted ahead of the six-month limit if the lab meets required international standards.


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