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IOC adds marijuana to its no-no list

Moving to close a loophole exposed by the Ross Rebagliati case in Nagano, the IOC said Monday that marijuana and other "social drugs" will be included on its list of banned substances.

The International Olympic Committee executive board agreed to draft new provisions in the Olympic Charter and the IOC medical code dealing with marijuana and other recreational drugs.IOC officials said marijuana would be added to the banned list, even though it is not considered a performance-enhancing drug, and that any athlete testing positive for the drug would be disqualified.

The move came as a response to the case of Rebagliati, the Canadian snowboarder who was stripped of his gold medal in the men's giant slalom during the Nagano Winter Games after testing positive for marijuana.

The IOC's decision was later overturned and the medal reinstated by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled there was no clear provision for marijuana testing at the games.

"This was a clear lesson," IOC director general Francois Carrard said. "We had regulations that were not clear enough. We had to draw a lesson from Nagano. The IOC wants to take a stand against a social drug."

IOC vice president Dick Pound of Canada, who has expressed reservations about regulating for social drugs, said the Olympic body wanted to set an example.

"The IOC has decided in the case of social drugs we should take a stand, and Olympic athletes should be put to a somewhat higher standard than society in general," he said. "Marijuana is sufficiently serious that we will be recommending disqualification."

Carrard said the IOC needed more time to work on the details and language to be included in the charter and medical code.

"Marijuana will be banned, that's for sure," he said. "There is absolutely no doubt that marijuana is included there."

IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch set up a four-member task force to study the issue after Nagano.

Prince Alexandre de Merode, chairman of the IOC medical commission, was among those pushing for marijuana to be banned.

"I believe the IOC as a principle likes to be associated with the fight against drugs, including social drugs," he said. "The IOC is taking care of the health of athletes and young people. We believe Olympic athletes must be an example for other young athletes and the youth."

De Merode said marijuana should be banned even though it does not act as a performance-enhancer like steroids.

"It's basically not performance-enhancing, but marijuana can destroy the performance," he said. "It can be dangerous. It can give you the impression that you are indestructible."

The medical chief said he would recommend that, outside of Olympic competition, international federations should apply a maximum three-month suspension for marijuana use.

De Merode said heroin and cocaine are already on the banned list, while drugs such as ecstasy and hallucinogenic mushrooms could be added.

He rejected suggestions that the IOC should streamline its banned list to include only performance-enhancing drugs like steroids, human growth hormone and EPO.

"If you take something off the list, it's an open door to use that product," he said. "Everybody jumps on it and uses it."

Pound, the Canadian IOC vice president, stressed that marijuana should be seen in a different light from steroids.

"I think you have to be careful on social drugs," he said. "Marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug. One man's marijuana is another man's alcohol."