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IOC drug experts to announce EPO decision

IOC members and independent experts at the start of the two-day meeting Keystone

The International Olympic Committee is due to announce today whether it will introduce a new test for the Erythropoietin drug (EPO) in time for the Sydney Olympics. The decision is expected following two days of discussion in Lausanne.

IOC medical experts and seven independent scientists are taking part in the meeting, which is considering the value of two rival tests, formulated by French and Australian researchers. As well as examining the ability of the tests to trace the drug, the panel will have to be convinced that the procedures are practical.

The IOC’s medical commission has also pointed out that the chosen test must be acceptable both scientifically and legally.

Unlike the Australians, the French say their test can distinguish synthetically introduced EPO from naturally occurring hormones using only urine samples. The Australian method requires a blood test.

The use of EPO is reported to be widespread in sports which require feats of endurance. The hormone helps increase the intake of oxygen into the blood and has been successfully used by doctors to ease difficult childbirths.

Despite EPO being on the IOC’s list of prohibited substances, no test has yet been judged sufficiently accurate to be officially sanctioned. Any decision taken today will be on mainly medical grounds. A final decision, based on judicial factors, is not expected to be taken until the end of August at the earliest.

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