If you end up on the world stage, you better be ready. That’s a lesson Brazil seems determined to learn the hard way. With Zika running rampant, the country hosting this summer’s Olympic Games had enough negative PR on its plate. Now, it’s gotten worse.
Less than two months before the Torch is lit in Rio de Janeiro, a lab setup to manage drug testing at the Games was just suspended by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The charge, the lab didn’t conform to international standards. In other words, the lab tasked with one of the most important testing processes meant to protect the legitimacy of the Games couldn’t pass muster. And everyone knew this ahead of time.
They knew because this lab had its certification to conduct drug testing revoked, only one of a few in the history of the WADA to suffer this consequence. This is the same judgment leveled last year on the lab in Moscow at the center of the Russian doping scandal.
Rio Games Ban
Some officials are even calling for Russian track and field athletes to be banned from the Rio Games. With this latest revelation, will any other athletes be banned? How will the “home team” be impacted by this development?
This is not really a new experience for Brazil. The same lab was suspended in 2013, a year before Rio hosted the soccer World Cup. It just got its reinstatement papers last year. That project cost more than $60 million and forced the Brazilian government to step in both to fund and oversee the necessary improvements to the lab’s equipment and systems. Now, it seems, they’re back to square one.
Games Could Be Tainted
The logistical seriousness of this issue is just one link in a long chain. The PR and political issues could be even more widespread. If the lab doesn’t get a clean bill of health, every test they administer will have an asterisk behind it. The entire Games – every race and every result – could be tainted by the specter of improper testing. It’s the sort of argument sports fans never let go, and the kind of black mark that can follow an athlete through their career.
Given these factors, the clock is ticking. Brazil needs to get a handle on this PR crisis quick before it gets out of hand, and before anything else happens to make all of this even worse.
Elie Hirschfeld is a NY real estate developer.