RIO DE JANEIRO/LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Brazil, which has built a $25 million laboratory just to test drug cheats at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, risks being unable to do so, as it has less than three weeks to change its doping laws to conform to global regulations.
Under World Anti-Doping Agency rules, doping cases must be heard by an independent specialized tribunal as opposed to a general sports court, as is the current process in Brazil.
"They (Brazil) are very well aware of what they have to do," WADA chief Craig Reedie told reporters in Lausanne on Tuesday, confirming the deadline. "The ball is firmly in their court."
Reedie said Brazil had assured WADA for considerable time that it would change the law. With the Olympics starting in Rio in August, WADA set a March 18 deadline for Brazil to be in accordance with the organization's doping rules.
However, with Brazil embroiled in a political crisis and President Dilma Rousseff facing impeachment proceedings, there is no guarantee that the government will pass the required change in time.
Marco Aurelio Klein, national secretary of the Brazilian Doping Authority, said the creation of a separate doping tribunal could be achieved by presidential decree, a temporary law, or editing a law that is about to be passed.
Klein is concerned Brazil could lose its WADA accreditation even though it built a laboratory at Rio's Federal University that cost more than 100 million reais.
"A few months before the Olympic Games, Brazil cannot take that risk," Klein said.
Reporting by Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro and Karolos Grohmann in Lausanne, Writing by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn