For the third time this year, a representative of the International Olympic Committee will appear today for questioning before a U.S. Congress that has taken an unprecedented interest in its operation.

Unlike the previous hearings last week and in the spring, which examined the bribery scandal surrounding the IOC's Olympic site selection process, today's hearing, in front of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, will delve into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Olympic competition.

IOC Vice President Richard Pound, who will represent the organization today on Capitol Hill, said yesterday he intended to update the committee on the IOC's effort to created a worldwide independent drug-testing agency by January 2000 -- a plan that has been sharply criticized by National Drug Control Policy Director Barry McCaffrey, who also will testify.

"Frankly, I think our track record over the last 30 years has been pretty good," Pound said. "It's clear we're well short of a final solution . . . [but] the unanimity in the Olympic movement never existed before, and the interest of governments never existed before."

Performance-enhancing drug use by athletes has been of major interest for McCaffrey in recent months.

During the hearing, McCaffrey plans to propose that the U.S. government become directly involved in amateur and Olympic anti-doping efforts at the national level. That would represent a significant shift in policy, because all Olympic drug testing in the United States now takes place under the auspices of the IOC, the U.S. Olympic Committee or other nongovernmental sport governing bodies.

The United States is relatively unique in the world of Olympic sports because the U.S. government does not currently fund or play a major role in the activities of its national Olympic committee -- except through the Amateur Sports Act, which is basically the USOC constitution.

McCaffrey's proposal calls for the U.S. government to oversee drug testing in amateur sports, to help the USOC develop a fully independent drug-testing agency and to expand federal support for national anti-doping programs.

Committee Chair John McCain (R-Ariz.), who presided over the first Olympic-related hearing this year, also will hear from former athletes Carl Lewis, a nine-time Olympic gold medal winner in track and field, and Frank Shorter, one of America's top marathoners.

USOC President Bill Hybl is expected to outline the USOC's plans for its independent anti-doping agency, which it intends to be fully operative in time for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Doriane Coleman, a professor at the Center for Sports and Law at Duke University, also will testify. Coleman represented U.S. middle-distance runner Mary Slaney when Slaney tested positive for high levels of the steroid testosterone in 1996. Coleman successfully argued to the USA Track & Field arbitration panel that the testosterone test was flawed, but the international governing body of track and field (the International Amateur Athletic Federation) rejected the argument this year.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association CEO Scott Serota and Gary Wadler, professor of clinical medicine at New York University School of Medicine, will testify.