LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) -- Independent observers will monitor drug testing during the Sydney Olympics in a move to allay athletes' fears of cover-ups and faulty procedures.
The IOC also said today there is a "50-50" chance a blood test for the banned hormone EPO will be introduced at the Sydney Games.
If Australian scientists come up with a reliable test, the IOC will fast-track the process to ensure it is validated in time for the Games, said Jacques Rogge, vice-chairman of the IOC's medical commission.
Rogge said independent observers will be appointed by the new World Anti-Doping Agency to oversee the entire drug-testing system during the Sept. 15-Oct. 1 Games.
The observers will be present at all stages, including the collection and analysis of urine samples and disciplinary hearings for athletes who test positive.
The need for greater openness, oversight and accountability in Olympic drug testing has been a major demand of athletes' groups. Critics have accused the IOC of hiding positive tests at past Olympics.
"Athletes want controls to be fair," Rogge said. "They feel that doping controls are generally not correct. They fear cover-ups. There is a general suspicion among athletes and part of public opinion.
"While these concerns are unjustified, the best way to alleviate the suspicion is to have an independent observer who follows the whole sequence of doping control."
IOC vice-president Dick Pound of Montreal, chairman of the drug agency, added: "Unless the athletes buy into the doping control system, the system won't work."
It was uncertain how many observers will be needed. More than 2,000 drug tests could be carried out during the Sydney Games.
"We don't need the U.N. army with blue helmets," Rogge said. "You don't need a big brother mentality of observers behind the shoulder for every doping control."
Rogge, meanwhile, gave one of the IOC's most upbeat assessments of the possibility of having a test for EPO, or erythropoietin, in Sydney.
"I'd put the odds at 50-50," he said.
EPO, which enhances endurance by boosting the production of oxygen-rich red blood cells in the body, was at the centre of the Tour de France drug scandal two years ago and is believed widely used in several sports. EPO cannot be detected by standard urine tests.
Rogge said the IOC has completed the legal rules that would allow blood sampling to be carried out in Sydney if a test is ready.
Researchers at the Australian Institute of Sport have told the IOC they can produce a reliable EPO test by early July.
"I dearly hope this will be true," Rogge said. "However, we can't accept a test that has not been scientifically validated."