IOC to decide this week on EPO test

Olympic athletes should know this week whether drug testing at the Sydney Olympic Games will finally include tests for the banned hormone EPO.

Olympic athletes should know this week whether drug testing at the Sydney Olympic Games will finally include tests for the banned hormone EPO.

The International Olympic Committee meets Monday and Tuesday to study two competing tests and decide whether either or both are reliable enough to use in Sydney.

The urine-based control developed in France and the blood-sampling method devised in Australia, will be reviewed to determine whether they meet scientific and legal standards.

The French and Australian researchers will present their tests to a 15-member panel made up of IOC medical officials and seven outside experts. A decision is expected Tuesday afternoon.

"We want to know what the possibility of a false positive result is," said Jacques Rogge, vice-chairman of the IOC Medical Commission.

"That's the question mark. If a false positive percentage is significant, then of course we can't accept it. It opens the doors for appeals."

A test for EPO, or erythropoetin, has so far eluded researchers trying to find a test for one of sport's most abused performance-enhancing drugs, which is used by some athletes in endurance sports to boost their stamina

Experts say the drug, which boosts the production of red bloods cells and is especially popular in endurance events such as cycling and distance running, can improve performance by 10-15 percent.

However, heavy use of EPO can also lead to blood clots and other complications. The drug has been blamed for the deaths of numerous professional cyclists over the past 20 years.

It had been hoped that the French test would be used for this year's Tour de France, but the International Cycling Union held off, claiming more research was needed.

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