As President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), I acknowledge the high level of interest surrounding the recent suspension of accreditation of the Beijing, Bloemfontein and Lisbon laboratories. I am also aware that these suspensions come at a time when the eyes of the sporting world are fixed on the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Understandably, some athletes might question whether, in light of these suspensions, they can retain full confidence in anti-doping sample analysis procedures.
It is important for athletes to note that, as a result of these suspensions, all samples will now be transported securely to one of the remaining 31 WADA-accredited laboratories worldwide, thereby ensuring that there are no gaps in the anti-doping sample analysis procedures and that the integrity of the samples is fully maintained. I wish to stress that the three laboratory suspensions are a direct result of WADA’s strengthened laboratory monitoring process. The robust procedures we have introduced include a more stringent External Quality Assessment Scheme (EQAS) and more frequent laboratory site visits by independent experts and WADA personnel. It is for this very reason that clean athletes should have full confidence in the system: if a laboratory is found not to be conforming with WADA’s standards, their accreditation is suspended pending the necessary requirements being met.
As it relates to the specific reasons why a laboratory may have its accreditation suspended, WADA cannot provide these details due to ongoing legal processes that include the laboratory’s right of appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Generally speaking, however, laboratory suspensions can be due to a variety of reasons, including: a violation of the International Standard for Laboratories (ISL), which may relate to administrative problems or organizational issues; or the accumulation of too many ‘penalty points’ that would result from WADA’s EQAS. If a laboratory accumulates 30 or more points during an EQAS period, this can result in a suspension. To give an example, these ‘penalty points’can be accumulated if the laboratory wrongly reports results for ‘blind’ or ‘double blind’ samples that they would have been sent during the assessment period. It is also worth bearing in mind that as laboratories face increasing analytical challenges, with new substances being added to the Prohibited List, a suspension can be the result of insufficient or outdated equipment, which can directly impact their ability to analyse samples efficiently.
If, for example, a laboratory which was found to have reported ‘false negatives’ - i.e. erroneously reporting what should be a positive sample as a negative - was ever left to continue conducting analysis, this would result in wasted resources for the anti-doping system, and would offer no safeguard for clean athletes. The far better alternative for the clean athlete, and the anti-doping system at-large, is for that laboratory to be suspended until it has corrected any recurrent problems. There can be no question that issues have to be addressed on the spot with the laboratories; this is an approach that WADA will continue through its quality monitoring program.
Athletes need not be concerned that the laboratory’s past sample analysis would be in any way compromised by the suspension, as WADA requires suspended laboratories to reassess results of past analysis and reanalyse past athlete samples from a determined period of time as needed. This is an important safeguard that protects the clean athlete.
I can assure you that WADA is committed to supporting all of its accredited laboratories in maintaining or reaching the Agency’s more stringent laboratory monitoring standards; and, with this, athletes can have full confidence that this, too, is a strong link of the anti-doping chain.
WADA will continue to work with the suspended laboratories to ensure that the necessary requirements are met.