Brazil, Wada in drug test spat

Doping watchdog, host nation cross swords over decision to suspend tests on its athletes

RIO DE JANEIRO • Brazil stopped carrying out drug tests on its leading athletes in the month before the Olympics, a decision labelled "unacceptable" by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

Former chiefs of the host nation's anti-doping agency informed Wada that the sports ministry had stopped drug testers from making surprise checks on some of the country's top stars.

Brazil's sports ministry has strongly denied any wrongdoing but admitted that no tests were carried out between July 1 and 24.

It says it was due to the fact that the Rio doping laboratory had had its accreditation suspended.

Rob Koehler, deputy director of Wada, told The Times, London: "We sent a letter to the minister of sport and the executive director of the Brazilian national anti-doping agency expressing our concerns and demanding to know why testing had been stopped in Brazil.

"The response was not satisfactory - the explanation that it had come about due to the changing of the guard in the ministry and the agency was not acceptable to us.

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    Brazil's leading athletes were not drug-tested for a month leading up to the Olympics - a decision that Wada calls "unacceptable".

"It was unacceptable that it stopped. That was not a good move - the fact no testing was happening was a concern."

Koehler said investigations were continuing into other allegations it had received .

One former senior official, Professor Luis Horta, said he chose not to renew his contract with Brazil's anti-doping agency after being alarmed by pressure from the sports ministry and Brazil's National Olympic Committee to reduce testing. He reported his concerns to Wada on July 1.

The claims are another blow to the Olympics, still reeling from the Russian doping scandal.

The International Olympic Committe has cleared at least 271 Russian competitors from an original line-up of 387.

The majority of those declared ineligible were from three sports - athletics (67), rowing (22) and weightlifting (10).

Horta is a former head of Portugal's anti-doping agency and was given a Unesco-funded role as an anti-doping adviser to Brazil in the run-up to Rio 2016, where he had responsibility for organising out-of-competition tests for a pool of 287 top athletes.

He told The Times: "In June... the sports ministry and the Olympic committee were putting pressure on us, saying we were making too many doping controls on the athletes and this was causing a problem for their training. We were performing around three a year and in some cases on the best athletes as many as six in the last year.

"They also said we were too strict in the employment of the whereabouts system."

Horta believes all out-of-competition tests for Brazil's athletes were suspended 45 days before the start of the Games in order to avoid any potential embarrassment.

He said: "The anti-doping agency's primary objective was for many medals and all of them clean, (but some parties) just wanted many medals, whether clean or not."

A statement from Brazil's ministry of sport denied any wrongdoing. It said: "There was no political decision of interrupting the tests in any way."

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2016, with the headline 'Brazil, Wada in drug test spat'. Print Edition | Subscribe