Montreal - The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has cancelled its annual symposium and related athlete session in Switzerland over concerns about the coronavirus epidemic.
In a statement issued on Friday, Montreal-based WADA said it took the decision based on the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health's announcement banning large-scale gatherings of more than 1 000 people in Switzerland until March 15.
The symposium and athlete meeting had been scheduled for March 17-19 at the SwissTech Convention Centre in Lausanne.
"WADA is disappointed to announce the cancellation of its Annual Symposium, which has become the annual event for anti-doping practitioners," WADA president Witold Banka said. "It was a difficult decision as the event attracts almost 1 000 participants from around the world every year.
"However, it was necessary to ensure the health and safety of the Agency's staff and stakeholder community. The Agency commits to ensuring that most of the elements of the Symposium program are delivered via alternative means over the coming weeks and months."
WADA said it would reach out separately to scheduled attendees and other stakeholders impacted by the cancellation.
"As it relates to the Coronavirus, WADA will continue monitoring the situation based on expert information from the World Health Organisation and will put other measures in place as needed related to staff and stakeholder travel connected to the Agency's mission," WADA said.
On Friday, the World Health Organisation raised its global risk assessment of the new coronavirus to its highest level after the epidemic spread to sub-Saharan Africa and markets slumped.
It has killed more than 2 800 people and infected more than 84 000 worldwide - the majority in China - since it emerged apparently from an animal market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late December.
The virus has wreaked havoc on the Asian sporting calendar and led to a temporary suspension of testing by the China Anti-Doping Agency, which was scheduled to resume testing in China this week on a phased basis.