Marijuanais taking time and resources away from catching the real cheaters in sport, one of Canada's top drug testing officials said.

Sports and government officials in Great Britain and the Netherlands recently called for marijuana to be removed from the list of drugs banned in sport.

Athletes who occasionally smoke marijuana and get caught shouldn't face severe penalties, so drug testers could focus on steroids and other drugs athletes use to enhance performance, said Joseph de Pencier of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, the group that administers drug testing for Canadian athletes.

For athletes to be sanctioned, they should have a level of marijuana in their systems that indicates regular use or some attempt to get an edge, de Pencier said.

Heacknowledged that sports leaders who make the rules internationally think differently aboutcannabis.

"I don't think it's a fight that Canada and some other countries are going to win about getting cannabis off the list altogether," he said. "I think we're just whistling in the wind on that one."

Track and field is one sport that has had problems with some athletes secretlytaking steroids and other drugs to get an edge. Joanne Mortimore, CEO of Athletics Canada for the sport, said marijuana should not be banned for athletes.

"Get out of the social drug scene," said Mortimore. "Let's stick on high performance drugs and not bother with [marijuana]."

Other reasons to maintain ban

Marijuana will remain banned for several reasons, agency officials with the World Anti-Doping Agency or WADA said.

They argue that in some sports, it can be performance enhancing to calm nerves before a competition. The drug is also unethical and illegal in most countries, and according to the agency's research, it is harmful to an athlete's health.

There is a debate over whether marijuana can be a performance enhancing drug, but athletes have to set an example, said Scott Burns, who represents the U.S. government at WADA.

But the current rules mean that some university athletes have trouble getting into graduate programs when they test positive for marijuana when they are recreational users, which de Pencier said is too high a penalty to pay for smoking an occasional joint.

Corrections

  • Joseph de Pencier of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport said marijuana is taking time and resources away from catching the real cheaters in sport. He did not say, as originally reported, that marijuana should be removed from the list of drugs banned in sport.
    Mar 07, 2007 1:20 PM ET