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EPO Tests Raise Hopes of Catching Drug Cheats -- February 29, 2000

A test developed in Canberra to detect the banned super drug EPO is almost foolproof and could be ready in time for the Sydney Olympics, according to the Australian Institute of Sport.

Initial trials show the chance of a faulty test is only one in 100,000, according to Allan Hahn, AIS head of physiology. The AIS is being funded by the Federal Government and the International Olympic Committee to develop a test for erythropoietin (EPO).

After the test has been trialled more widely, it will be delivered to the IOC in July to be legally and medically checked and hopefully cleared for use at the Sydney Olympics in September.

Hahn said yesterday that initial testing had shown the probability of a false positive test was very low. He said the AIS was collecting four blood samples from 1200 Olympic-level athletes worldwide to show the normal range of EPO, which is naturally occurring. They would then compare the results with a trial on 105 recreational athletes, half of whom would be injected with EPO and half given a placebo.

"Because the test is based on probabilities, we're measuring a number of different parameters," Hahn said. "We're aiming to have a test that's an extremely low probability of any false positive."