FIFA to World Cup fly samples to Switzerland

FIFA will fly blood and urine samples taken at the 2014 World Cup to an accredited laboratory in Switzerland.

Brazil, which hosts the World Cup next summer and the Olympic Games two years later, does not have a working anti-doping laboratory.

I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised: with stadiums unfinished, airports resembling building sites and roads awaiting completion, the prospect of the country having a fully functioning, FIFA-approved anti-doping laboratory always looked a long shot.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) revoked the status of the current lab in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year.

As the lab cannot be re-accredited in time for next summer, samples will be flown to Lausanne.

FIFA said in a statement: “For next year’s World Cup, FIFA and WADA will ensure the best possible analysis of urine and blood samples and the proper implementation of the new strategy in the fight against doping by means of the steroid module of the athlete biological passport.

“FIFA is now taking the necessary logistical steps for the shipment of samples overseas.”

Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s general secretary, wrote on Twitter:  “FIFA anti-doping decision wasn’t our first choice. Together with @wada_ama we had no other alternative to protect integity of #WorldCup.”

Last month, FIFA’s chief medical officer Michel D’Hooghe said it was “nearly impossible to believe” that Brazil, which also hosts the Olympic Games in 2016, does not have a facility to carry out testing.

Judging by his incredulity, D’Hooghe has clearly not been paying much attention to Brazil’s preparations for the the World Cup.

He added that sending samples to Europe would increase costs significantly and would also delay the whole testing process.

Last year FIFA said it would spend $20 million making the 2014 World Cup in Brazil the first with a comprehensive sustainability strategy to minimise the tournament’s carbon footprint.

It’s unclear how daily flights to Switzerland ferrying urine samples square with that strategy. However, given the way they operate, it would not be unreasonable to assume that FIFA’s original pledge was just the latest example of them extracting the urine in an altogether different sense.