September 19, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 13  

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SPORTS

Marijuana still banned

LONDON (AP) - Romanian gymnast Andreea Raducan paid a heavy price for listening to her doctor and taking a common cold tablet during the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She was stripped of a gold medal.

Athletes who did little more than drink too much coffee or cola often ended up similarly disgraced - or suspended. Such disqualifications would end under a proposed new list of banned substances drawn up by the World Anti-Doping Agency, The Associated Press learned Wednesday.

One key recommendation calls for caffeine and pseudoephedrine, an ingredient in Sudafed and other over-the-counter cold remedies, to be removed from the banned category, along with phenylpropanolamine, another minor stimulant found in cold medicines.

Cannabis or marijuana would remain on the banned list. Modafinil, the medication that could cost American sprinter Kelli White two world championship gold medals, would be listed by name for the first time among banned stimulants.

Details of the proposed list were disclosed to the AP by Arne Ljungqvist, the Swedish anti-doping official who heads WADA's medical research committee.

"We must adjust our list to modern thinking and to changes of attitude and changes of knowledge," Ljungqvist said.

The list must still be approved by the doping agency's executive committee, which meets in Montreal next Monday and Tuesday.

WADA chief Dick Pound said he would support a continued ban on marijuana, but declined to comment on the proposed changes for caffeine and pseudoephedrine.

"It's not right for me as chairman to anticipate what the executive committee may decide," Pound said. "The list is proposed for discussion and we haven't discussed it yet. I don't know enough about it."

WADA has set a deadline of Oct. 1 for final ratification of the list, which would go into effect globally on Jan. 1. The list applies to all sports and all countries covered by WADA's global anti-doping code; it would be in force for next year's Summer Olympics in Athens.

"Hundreds and hundreds of man hours have been devoted to this," Ljungqvist said. "The result is not revolutionary. You end up with compromises."

Raducan was 17 when she was told to turn in her all-around gymnastics gold medal in Sydney after testing positive for pseudoephedrine. She took it because her doctor told her to. Olympic officials acknowledged the penalty was harsh, but said they had no choice but to follow their own rules.

"We cannot look retroactively at what has happened in the past," Ljungqvist said. "The list in existence is the one you have to observe. In 2000, pseudoephedrine was on the list."

Ljungqvist stressed that among the substances that would remain banned was ephedrine, considered a stronger stimulant than pseudoephedrine.

Caffeine has also produced its share of positive findings. A urine sample showing a concentration of caffeine greater than 12 micrograms per millilitre has been considered a positive test.

Among the higher profile cases, U.S. sprinter Inger Miller was stripped of a bronze medal in the 60 metres at the 1999 world indoor championships after a positive caffeine test. At last month's Pan American Games, Letitia Vriesde of Surinam lost her gold in the 800 metres for the same thing.

Modafinil, which figured in White's case, is on the proposed banned list.

The status of cannabis, which covers marijuana and hashish, was the subject of particularly intense debate.

Some have argued that cannabis should be left off the list because it's not performance-enhancing. But Ljungqvist noted the new definition of doping also covers substances that violate the "spirit of sport."

Ross Rebagliati, a Canadian snowboarder, was initially stripped of a gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics after a positive marijuana test. He was reinstated because cannabis wasn't officially on the banned list. It has been specifically prohibited since then.

 

 

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