Africa’s only anti-doping lab suspended

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For illustration only. PHOTO: 123rf.com

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced in March that it has suspended the accreditation of the South African Doping Control Laboratory (SADoCoL) in Bloemfontein for a period that could extend to six months. SADoCoL is a unit of the University of the Free State (UFS) and is the only anti-doping lab in Africa.

“The laboratory accepted the recommendation for suspension which was approved by the Chair of the WADA Executive Committee,” their statement on 5 March 2024 read. “The suspension, which took effect on 1 March 2024, prohibits the laboratory from carrying out any anti-doping activities, including analyses of urine and blood samples, except for analysis related to the Athlete Biological Passport haematological module.”

WADA has given SADoCoL six months to meet its new standards for certain testing criteria. “During the period of suspension, the laboratory shall address all non-conformities identified by the Lab EAG or WADA as well as any additional non-conformities identified by any follow-up WADA site visit during the suspension period,” the agency stated.

If SADoCoL satisfies the requirements it may apply for reinstatement prior to the expiry of the six-month suspension period.

Lacea Loader, Senior Director for Communication and Marketing at UFS, confirmed: “The reasons [for the suspension] are technical involving the application of certain technical requirements from the World Anti-Doping Agency.”

Loader explained that the laboratory will make changes to certain processes and procedures and have a site visit from WADA to review the changes as expected.

Regarding university athletes and sports teams, Loader said: “The teams’ athletes are still safeguarded for clean sport, as the sample collections will continue as normal, and the samples will be sent to other WADA accredited laboratories.”

SADoCoL will continue to conduct all testing outside of the WADA scope “as the suspension does not involve the ISO17025 accreditation by SANAS,” explained Loader.

Bloemfontein Courant reached out to several sports teams in the city, with the general consensus being that WADA’s decision has not affected sportspeople within the city. Ronel Pienaar, General Manager of Communications for the Toyota Cheetahs, confirmed that WADA’s decision has not affected the team.

Warren Hawkins

warren@mahareng.co.za