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Doping lab for Sochi provisionally suspended

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The International Olympic Committee has guaranteed the "integrity" of the drug-testing program at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Sunday after a Russia's anti-doping laboratory was provisionally suspended and given a Dec. 1 deadline to improve the reliability of its results.

If the World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited Moscow lab doesn't follow the recommendations of a disciplinary committee, it won't be allowed to provide testing facilities for February's Winter Games in Sochi.

"The IOC is confident that all the necessary measures will be taken and the Sochi lab will be fully functioning during the Games," the IOC said in a statement after the Russian lab was provisionally suspended for six months earlier Sunday. "The integrity of the Games-time testing program will remain unaffected by these developments, indeed it will be strengthened."

The WADA announcement threatening a suspension comes less than three months before the start of the Sochi Games. The international anti-doping authority gave the Moscow facility a first deadline of Dec. 1 to bring in independent "quality management" experts to "allow everyone to be confident of the accuracy and reliability of results moving forward."

That deadline in two weeks directly affects the Feb. 7-23 Sochi Games. In its statement, WADA said there was also a second deadline of April 1, 2014, when the lab must ensure that program of improvement has been "drafted, finalized, implemented and embedded."

"If the two above-mentioned conditions are fully satisfied within the specified deadlines (to which no extensions will be granted), then the above referenced six month suspension of accreditation of the Moscow laboratory shall never come into effect," WADA said.

The IOC announced last week it would do more doping tests around the Sochi Games than any other Winter Olympics - nearly 2,500 in all. The Moscow lab is due to move some of its facilities to Sochi to handle those tests under Moscow's accreditation.

The threatened suspension means there are now problems for the doping controls at both major international sports events next year. WADA has already revoked the accreditation of the Brazilian testing laboratory, forcing FIFA to fly samples before and during the World Cup in June and July to Switzerland for analysis.

WADA is not the responsible medical authority for the upcoming Olympics but said it "strongly suggests" the IOC "consider appropriate action to ensure the complete integrity of all analysis" at the laboratory both in Moscow and the satellite facility at Sochi.

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 samples from the football showcase to an accredited 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 host city will face the embarrassing scenario of having to cover the costs in order to fly samples to another lab under the host city agreement. Sochi already has the highest price tag for any Olympics, summer or winter, with an estimated cost of $50 billion.

Sochi also will be the most drug-tested games in Winter Olympics history, according to the IOC. New IOC President Thomas Bach told the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg this week that 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.

Follow Gerald Imray at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

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