Montreal - The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Friday that it has suspended the accreditation of its Brazilian doping control laboratory in Rio de Janeiro, just six weeks before the city hosts the Olympics.
The move prohibits the Rio lab from carrying out all anti-doping analyses on urine and blood samples.
It means that samples that would have been processed by the lab, including those from the Olympics, will be transported to other WADA-accredited labs around the world.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and WADA are battling doping on multiple fronts in a bid to convince an increasingly skeptical public that Rio will be free and fair.
The suspension was imposed due to a non-conformity with the International Standard for Laboratories, according to WADA, which began the ban on Thursday upon notifying the lab.
"WADA will work closely with the Rio laboratory to resolve the identified issue," WADA incoming director general Olivier Niggli said, giving no details of what the 'issue' was.
"The agency will ensure that, for the time being, samples that would have been intended for the laboratory will be transported securely, promptly and with a demonstrable chain of custody to another WADA-accredited laboratory worldwide.
"This will ensure that there are no gaps in the anti-doping sample analysis procedures and that the integrity of the samples is fully maintained."
Niggli's message to athletes competing in the August 5-21 Rio showpiece was that despite the ban, a "robust" anti-doping test program will be in place for the Olympics, which have already been overshadowed by a ban handed to Russia's track and field stars over doping.
"Athletes can have confidence that the suspension will only be lifted by WADA when the laboratory is operating optimally and that the best solution will be put in place to ensure that sample analysis for the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games is robust," he said.
The Brazilian Doping Control Laboratory has 20 days to appeal WADA's decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
WADA will soon form a disciplinary committee to review the Rio lab case and issue a recommendation as to its accreditation status. WADA can revoke or suspend a lab's status if it does not confirm to International Standard for Laboratories guidelines.
The ban will remain in effect for six months or until a decision by WADA's executive committee or its chairman on the basis of the upcoming review recommendation.
Any samples being handled by the Rio lab not yet analysed, all samples undergoing "A" or "B" confirmation procedures and all samples where a finding has been reported will be securely transported to another WADA-accredited laboratory as soon as possible and no later than July 7, WADA said.