The organizers of the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan Cortina do not yet know which anti-doping laboratory they will use: Rome or abroad?
With just over two years to go before the event, the organizers of the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan Cortina do not yet know which anti-doping laboratory they will use, that of Rome as logic would have it, or another abroad .
It is “THE» most practiced sport before each edition of the Olympic Games: «We are in the middle of a time trial, there is really no time to lose», recognizes Francesco Botrè.
Director for 25 years of “FMSI anti-doping laboratory“, the only one in Italy accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Botrè has known for a long time that its laboratory, installed in the Roman district of Acqua Acetosa on a training site of the Italian Olympic Committee, between rugby, field hockey and fencing halls, is in the crosshairs of the AMA.
“In 2017, he explains, WADA came to do an inspection and found nothing wrong with our work, but they told us that our laboratory was too small and too close physically to athletes.“.
“They gave us two years to expand. In the meantime, the 2026 Winter Olympics have been entrusted to Milan Cortina. The expansion project could not have absorbed the +Olympic overload+ and WADA gave us a new deadline», continues Professor Botrè.
This “Olympic overload», at a rate of 150 samples per day during the Olympics and the Paralympic Games scheduled respectively from February 6 to 22 and from March 6 to 15, 2026, would bring the number of analyzes carried out over the year to 20,000, compared to 12,000 currently.
Impossible to achieve by its team of 25 people on the 400 m2 of its current laboratory. The one that will be used for the 2024 Olympics, Professor Botrè recalls, has had 3,000 m2 available since June in Orsay, in the Paris suburbs.
Frozen for two years by the Covid pandemic, the expansion or relocation project began to become concrete in 2023.
A building has been identified “isolated and self-sufficient as the AMA wants“. All that remains is to obtain the budget for the development work, the purchase of new machines for analyzes or even the move estimated according to different sources at eleven million euros, twenty million including the cost of operations during the Olympics.
The Milan Cortina 2026 organizing committee refers to the Ministry of Sports and Youth which did not respond to requests from AFP.
For the laboratory to be operational one year before the start of the 2026 Olympic Games, as required by WADA, Professor Botrè and his team must be in their new walls by July… 2024 at the latest.
“There will then be all the work of calibrating the machines so that they are capable of identifying 400 different substances», he recalls.
Bobsleigh also relocated?
If the Roman laboratory is not ready, it will be necessary to go abroad, to Paris, Cologne or elsewhere: a new blow for the Italian organizers who, due to lack of time, money and/or political will to build a track, will undoubtedly relocate the bobsleigh and luge events to an already existing track abroad.
“In the eyes of WADA, the Montreal-based body confirmed, the laboratory in its current configuration is not in a position to cope with the increase in activity linked to the Olympics and Paralympic Games.“.
“If the laboratory cannot fulfill this mission, the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee will have to use one or more other laboratories abroad“.
A source within Italian sports authorities, however, believes that “there is room for maneuver with WADA: instead of the laboratory being ready a year before, we could imagine that nine months would be enough, that would give us more time“.
Professor Botrè remains “optimistic» and expects a lot from a meeting at the beginning of December. But he knows thatthe other European laboratories would do a good job» despite the logistical complications «for the transport of samples, for the movement of athletes in the event of counter-analysis“.
He does not hide his concern for the future of “her» laboratory: «I’m afraid that if we miss this Olympic train, we will never have a new laboratory and we could close“.