JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The Russian drug-testing lab for February's Winter Olympics in Sochi faces suspension unless it significantly improves the reliability of its results by Dec. 1.
The World Anti-Doping Agency has provisionally suspended the Moscow Antidoping Center on Sunday, saying its operations must improve or a six-month ban on the facility's accreditation will be imposed.
The WADA announcement of the possible suspension comes just three months before the start of the Sochi Games.
In its statement, WADA said the suspension will be enacted unless the center demonstrates by Dec. 1 that it is preparing a quality management program to increase confidence in its operations, and that by April 1 of 2014 the improved program has been "drafted, finalized, implemented and embedded."
WADA is not the responsible medical authority for the upcoming Olympics but said it "strongly suggests" the International Olympic Committee "consider appropriate action to ensure the complete integrity of all analysis" at the laboratory both in Moscow and the satellite facility at the Sochi Games.
The IOC gave the Russian facility its support, saying that it is "confident that all the necessary measures will be taken and the Sochi lab will be fully functioning during the Games.
"The integrity of the Games-time testing program will remain unaffected by these developments, indeed it will be strengthened," an IOC statement added.
WADA regularly checks that its accredited labs are working properly by sending them "blind samples," samples meant as tests to ensure the lab is giving correct findings, and not false positives or false negatives.
Labs deemed non-compliant with WADA's standards can have their accreditation revoked — as has happened with the Rio de Janeiro lab that had been scheduled to test samples at next year's World Cup in Brazil. FIFA will instead have to fly World Cup samples to the lab in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The Moscow lab handled drug tests for the world track and field championships in August and is also due to do the same for the Sochi games at its satellite facility.
Should the Moscow lab have its WADA accreditation revoked, the facility in Sochi would likely not be able to operate. The cost of transferring samples to another lab would likely be borne by local organizers under the host city agreement.
Sochi will be the most drug-tested games in Winter Olympics history. New IOC President Thomas Bach told the World Conference on Doping in Sport this week there would be a total of 2,453 tests before and during the games, including 1,269 pre-competition tests.
The IOC will spend $1 million on pre-competition testing for Sochi and "many millions" on testing throughout the event, Bach said.