LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) -- An Olympic medical panel on Tuesday decided that testing for one of most abused performance-enhancing drugs in sports can be used at the Sydney Games.
The panel reviewed a combined blood-urine test for EPO that was developed by Australian and French teams.
The International Olympic Committee said the panel agreed unanimously on implementing testing for the banned endurance-boosting hormone erythropoietin.
"EPO has been the worst of the undetectable drugs that is prevalent in the sporting society," said John Boultbee, executive director of the Australian Institute of Sport.
"Now those who cheat with EPO know that they should stop, or not come to Sydney, and those who don't cheat know that we have a level playing field."
The testing now must go before the IOC's lawyers. Final approval would come at the IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne on Aug. 28-29.
IOC medical commission chairman Prince Alexandre de Merode said the IOC plans to carry out 300 tests between Sept. 2, when the Olympic Village opens, and the end of the games on Oct. 1. It will be able to test any athlete at any time, he said, adding the IOC would like to see more tests if possible.
He declined to say how the athletes to be tested would be chosen, or whether the tests would be directed mostly toward athletes in endurance sports, where EPO is mostly believed to be used. "We will not point the finger at a single sport," he said. "But I think we will do the tests we think we have to do. All the athletes must know they can be tested."
Drew Clarke of the Australian Department of Science said the urine and blood would be taken from athletes at the same time.
"The results of both are integral to the calling of a positive result," he said. "It is a joint test."
De Merode said that if one test provided a positive result and the other a negative result, the athlete would be considered to be negative.
Initially developed in the 1980s to treat anemia in kidney patients, EPO boosts the production of oxygen-rich red blood cells and experts say it can improve performance by 10 percent to 15 percent.
The substance came to international prominence in 1998 when vials of the drug were found in an official vehicle of a team competing in cycling's Tour de France.
Until now there had been no reliable test because the drug is also produced naturally in the body.
Now a French laboratory says it can differentiate between natural and artificial EPO in urine, while Australian researchers have a blood test they claim detects changes in the blood caused by use of EPO.
The two teams presented their findings to a 15-member panel of medical experts at the Olympic Museum on Monday.
"I think it is quite a clear signal," Boultbee said. "Any athlete who's using EPO should stop."
IOC officials said they were eager to have a test in place in time for Sydney. But they stressed they would not run the risk of a flood of "false positives" in which a clean athlete could be wrongly accused of using banned substances and would not approve the tests unless evidence showed they were reliable.
Earlier this year, the International Cycling Union resisted pressure to implement a test for EPO in time for the Tour de France. The group said more studies were needed before it could be sure innocent riders would not test positive.
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