Six weeks before the Summer Olympics open in Rio de Janeiro, the laboratory that was set to handle drug testing at the Games has been suspended by the World Anti-Doping Agency in a new escalation of the doping crisis in international sports.
WADA — the global regulator of doping in sports that oversees three dozen testing labs around the world — confirmed the suspension Friday, citing the Rio lab’s “nonconformity” with international standards.
The lab has a prior disciplinary record and is one of a handful of labs that have had their certification to conduct drug testing revoked in WADA’s 17-year history. Among those is Moscow’s antidoping lab, which was disciplined last fall following accusations of a government-run doping program in Russia.
To say that things have been problematic leading up to these Summer Games would almost be redefining “understatement.” There were concerns about holding the games in Rio long before the Zika virus reared its ugly little mosquito head, but fingers were crossed and the IOC plowed ahead anyway.
Most of the problems thus far have centered around Zika, concerns over which are causing some athletes with young families to skip the games. The number four ranked golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy, is the most recent. This is the first time golf has been an Olympic sport in over a century but McIlroy is unwilling to roll the dice with Zika because he and his wife want to have more children.
Some of the problems have nothing to do with the host city, but still add to the overall bad publicity.
This news about the drug testing lab is a real hit though, as it is about actually conducting the games. Most trepidation in the weeks before an Olympics is about transportation in the host city, not the functionality of the games themselves.
The world is enough of a hot mess at the moment, so let’s hope the Rio organizing committee can pull this off so the Summer Olympics can provide the break from it all that the games are supposed to.