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Friday, July 28, 2000
Researchers confident on EPO test

 SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Australian scientists are confident that a blood test devised to detect the performing-enhancing substance EPO will receive Olympic backing before the Sydney Games.

 In the first step toward validating the test, the Australian EPO research project team will present its findings Tuesday to an IOC medical commission panel in Lausanne, Switzerland.

 The IOC has never sanctioned blood samples for drug tests. But EPO researcher Dr. Peter Davis said Friday that only legal wrangling would prevent a valid blood test from being implemented before the Olympics begin Sept. 15.

 EPO, or erythropoietin, boosts the production of oxygen-rich red blood cells and can benefit athletes in endurance sports. Injected in synthetic form, EPO is undetectable using urine samples in conventional drug tests.

 The IOC's independent medical commission panel will also investigate a urine test for EPO devised by a team of French scientists.

 Davis, who works in the Australian Institute of Sports physiology department, said the medical commission panel will consider both tests and make a recommendation to the IOC executive board.

 He said the IOC was committed to introducing the test and would wait until the eve of the opening ceremony to have it validated.

 "We're not interested in forcing a test if it's not absolutely correct," he said. "If one of the scientists finds an issue that they're not quite comfortable with, then we have to look at that seriously.

 "You don't want to go to the Olympics and grab someone who's just won a medal ... and falsely accuse them of being on drugs."

 Davis said researchers had beaten the odds by having a blood test ready for assessment by the IOC. He added that although it would be disappointing not to have the test introduced in Sydney, fine-tuning would continue.

 "Even if (the test) is implemented, the history we've seen with all the tests is that they're always worked on, they're always improved," he said.
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