Performance-enhancing drugs stolen; police fear tie to Olympics

ALICE SPRINGS, Australia - Syringes containing the performing-enhancing drug EPO were stolen from an Australian hospital Sunday and could flood the black market before the Sydney Olympics, police said.

About 1,000 syringes, estimated to be worth millions of dollars if sold illegally to athletes, were stolen from a storeroom at Alice Springs hospital in central Australia last Sunday, investigating detectives told the Australian Associated Press.

EPO, or erythropoietin, boosts the production of oxygen-rich red blood cells and is on the International Olympic Committee's list of banned substances for athletes.

Injected in synthetic form, EPO is undetectable using conventional doping tests and is believed to be the drug of choice in endurance sports including cycling and running.

Australian scientists have developed a blood test to detect EPO and are scheduled to present the test to the IOC's independent medical commission panel in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Monday and Tuesday.

The researchers hope the blood test will be validated by the IOC and introduced before the Sydney Olympics open Sept. 15.

The IOC has never sanctioned blood tests, relying only on athletes' urine samples.


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