March 10 (Reuters) - The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will seek alternative sources of sample collection kits after Swiss manufacturer Berlinger Special AG announced it was pulling out of the business.
WADA said in January it was looking into a potential integrity issue with Berlinger's sample collection bottles after the accredited laboratory in Cologne discovered they might potentially be susceptible to manual opening "upon freezing".
The bottles are used to collect and store urine and/or blood samples when an athlete undergoes a doping control test.
In a statement on Friday, WADA said it was gathering information from the company and its customers to come up with solutions that would maintain the integrity of the doping control process.
It said it had already contacted anti-doping organizations, accredited laboratories and sample collection agencies, including the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee, about the situation.
"WADA wishes to reassure athletes, anti-doping organizations and other stakeholders that it remains resolutely committed to following up with Berlinger and affected stakeholders as necessary until the matter is resolved and that it will keep stakeholders updated along the way," it said.
"It should be noted that manufacturers of security bottles, such as Berlinger, are responsible for the development, testing, distribution and monitoring of the equipment they produce and provide to their customers."
Bottle security became a major concern when officials learned athletes' analytical results were manipulated and samples swapped at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Russia was banned from last month's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics after the IOC found evidence of an "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the anti-doping system.
Berlinger said on it website that while it had decided to cease production of its doping control kits in the medium term, it would continue to supply the kits being used at the ongoing Winter Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, "for as long as stocks last".
The company said "increasingly institutionalized forms of doping malpractice" had increased and changed the demands made on its anti-doping kits.
"These developments are not only damaging to sport: they have become increasingly incompatible with our corporate values and core competencies," said Chairwoman of the Board Andrea Berlinger.
"And in view of this, we have taken the strategic decision to make an orderly withdrawal from this business segment over the next few months, and to focus on the high-tech core business of Berlinger & Co. AG."
Reporting by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Greg Stutchbury