An International Olympic Committee panel charged with developing a policy on the use of marijuana by athletes may also look at setting similar standards for alcohol consumption.
The IOC created the panel in response to the controversy created this week when Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati tested positive for traces of marijuana after winning a gold medal.Based on the recommendation of its medical commission, the IOC Executive Board voted to take away the medal and disqualify Rebagliati from the 1998 Winter Games.
That decision was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, due to confusion over just what the rules are in regard to the use of marijuana by Olympic athletes.
IOC Secretary General Francois Carrard told reporters Saturday that clarifying the policy is "a matter of a social and ethical concern - fundamental values are at stake."
Although Carrard said snow-boarding has a successful image, the case raised the "question of the example the athletes who participate in the Olympic Games are to set for the youth of the world."
Carrard said the newly created panel has the power to review alcohol and other substances categorized by the IOC rules only as subject to certain restrictions.
He said the panel's findings, expected to be considered by the IOC before the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, "could lead to other recommendations." Any changes would be in effect for the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
The IOC medical code treats marijuana and alcohol the same. Drug tests for both substances may be conducted in agreement with the international sports federations involved, and the results "may lead to sanctions."
The primary purpose of the code is to make clear what performance-enhancing drugs are banned and detail drug-testing procedures. Prohibited substances include stimulants, diuretics and steroids.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport, which reinstated Rebagliati's medal, noted that "from an ethical and medical perspective, cannabis is a matter of serious concern."
The independent court stated that if the IOC or anyone else wants "to add their own sanction to those that are edicted by public authorities, they must do in an explicit fashion."
The ruling, according to the court, was not intended to endorse the use of marijuana.
"In reaching our result, we do not suggest for a moment that the use of marijuana should be condoned, nor do we suggest that sports authorities are not entitled to exclude athletes found to use cannibis," the court stated.