Brazil Olympic team's number of drug-test samples questioned

Story highlights

  • The World Anti-Doping Agency says Brazil team didn't provide enough samples in month before Games
  • Russian team has previously been at the center of doping questions at this year's Games

(CNN)Brazil's Olympic team gave about a third as many samples as normally expected in the crucial month before the games began, CNN can reveal -- an "unacceptable practice" according to the world anti-doping watchdog.

The host nation has already been sanctioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA, over concerns its testing of its own athletes ahead of the Games was delayed, and perhaps compromised. Yet CNN has learned there may not actually be enough samples to test to give the team -- the second largest at the games -- a clean record for July. This is because Brazilian athletes gave a significantly reduced number of samples in the first three weeks of July.
    The World Anti-Doping Agency said the gap in samples collected by Brazil's anti-doping agency was "unacceptable practice ... particularly at such a crucial time before the Olympic Games." It added: "These numbers are not in line with an effective program." The spokesman said it may have left a "big gap."
    A spokesman for the Brazilian Ministry of Sport, Paulo Rossi, told CNN the Brazilian team of 477 athletes gave a total of 110 samples in the first 24 days of July. He described the average amount they would be expected to give in that period "as I think about 300," or possibly less.
    The reduced number of samples is a serious issue for Brazil, the host nation of an Olympic Games swamped in the geopolitical and moral impact of doping. The Russian Paralympic team has been banned. The Russian Olympic team has faced calls for a ban, and, while nearly all its track and field athletes have been banned, a lengthy International Olympic Committee mechanism to vet their remaining team members led to the vast majority of them being allowed to compete.
    The Brazilian Ministry of Sport said the "allegation is absurd and makes no sense." They added the Brazilian National Anti-Doping Organistaion, NADO, "under the Ministry of Sport, follows international codes to the letter and is committed to consolidating anti-doping policy in Brazil."
    Brazil's problems began with the nearly monthlong suspension of the only laboratory in the country accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency to carry out anti-doping tests, causing delays in the testing of samples the team did give. It was unclear why the laboratory was suspended. Yet the greatly reduced number of samples the team gave in July means there is now a hole in the samples that can be retrospectively tested for the month ahead of the Games, a period the doping watchdog deems "crucial." The Brazilian laboratory has since had its accreditation by WADA restored and will process 6,000 samples from all countries competing during the Games.
    A spokesman for WADA, Ben Nichols, told CNN in an email: "We wrote to the ministry pressing our concerns and demanding to know why testing had stopped. The response was not satisfactory, and the situation was unacceptable." Nichols confirmed 110 samples had been collected for testing in the July 1-24 period.
    However, Rossi said Brazil's anti-doping agency was struggling to process samples because its laboratory had been suspended. He said WADA was aware of the issue, and blamed the problems on WADA suspending the laboratory. The Brazilian Ministry of Sport said in its statement that 2,227 tests had been done in Brazil between January 1 and June 22, when the laboratory was suspended.
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    WADA said the Brazilian anti-doping authority should have -- as part of established practices in sport -- sent all Brazil's samples to another laboratory during the period in which the main laboratory in Brazil was suspended. The Brazilian Ministry of Sport said the partner laboratories their anti-doping agency could have used included one in Spain -- which was also suspended by WADA -- and laboratories in Portugal and Colombia, which Rossi said were unable to take on the task.
    WADA spokesman Nichols said the agency had repeatedly told Brazilian officials the situation was unsatisfactory and notified Olympic officials in "the pre-Olympics task force with our concerns, and requested that there be increased testing on Brazilian athletes."
    The International Olympic Committee said, through spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau, that its task force was meant to assess which athletes might need extra scrutiny, but not carry out the tests itself, as that was the job of doping agencies. She did not comment on the reduced level of sampling.