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Statement from SADoCol after WADA ruling

A decision has been taken to temporary close the lab for six months.

Picture: EWN.

JOHANNEBSURG - The South African Doping Control Laboratory (SADoCoL) is a specialised service laboratory of the University of the Free State (UFS) and serves as the only laboratory in Africa accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to perform doping control analysis on biological samples of Athletes and Sport Men and Sport Women.

The laboratory has been in existence for more than 30 years and has been equipped with the necessary instrumentation to perform its duty as one of thirty five similarly accredited laboratories over the Globe.

Due to ever-increasing demands on the number, variety and analytical sensitivity of compounds to be analysed according to the Prohibited List of WADA, technical and infrastructure adaptations need to be continuously implemented in the laboratory to keep up with the demands. Over the last year SADoCoL has drastically increased its capacity in both personnel and infrastructure to a point where these changes can be implemented for optimal performance of the laboratory.

This has to be done while normal routine analysis continues and it became clear that at present, implementation cannot be successfully accomplished together with the workload from normal routine analyses.

After consultation with the senior leadership of the UFS and other role players, especially the Department of Sport and Recreation of South Africa (SRSA) and the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS), a decision has been taken to temporary close the laboratory for some of its routine analytical duties for six months, starting from 1 April 2016. During this period the laboratory will focus on capacity building and the implementation of the latest methodologies. It is also envisaged, and preliminary negotiations are underway, to involve experts from other WADA accredited laboratories to assist in crucial aspects of this process. The progress of the process will be closely monitored and the upgraded methodologies will then be implemented after rigorous testing to be sure that the required analytical quality is maintained.

SADoCoL realises that this decision cannot be taken in isolation and therefore we are grateful for the understanding and support we have received from SRSA and SAIDS, both in making this decision and offering support to accomplish the necessary goals. Without their support and also that of the Global Anti-Doping community, vitally necessary processes such as this will not be possible.

On 3 May 2016, WADA announced the suspension of the accreditation of the SADoCoL to perform doping control analysis on biological samples of athletes and sportsmen and women until 30 September 2016. During this period all sport samples will be transported to alternative WADA-accredited laboratories for analysis.

SADoCoL is presently in a growth phase during which adaptations and expansions are incorporated in both its personnel and technological infrastructure. The time of suspension will be utilised to implement and test these new systems in order to achieve the standard presently required by WADA.

This period also coincides with a voluntary time of closure previously announced by the laboratory and during which development and improvements will be performed. This development will be performed in close collaboration with other role players in the anti-doping movement in South Africa such as the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) and the Department of Sport and Recreation of South Africa (SRSA). Scientific development aid will also be acquired from other doping control laboratories worldwide.

The progress of the process will be closely monitored and the upgraded methodologies will then be implemented after rigorous testing to ensure that the required analytical quality is maintained.

SADoCoL is ready and prepared to utilise this period to the best of its ability to assure that the high analytical quality is maintained and will be expanded to meet the fast growing challenges in this field.