editorial 

It’s difficult to measure the level of hypocrisy in the International Olympic Committee’s (original) decision to strip Ross Rebagliati of his gold medal, but it certainly exceeds 17.8 nanograms. To start with, the IOC uses the rules of each sport’s governing body in dealing with "recreational" drugs. There is no Olympic standard. Figure skating may have one standard, luge another and curling may not even have a standard. The FIS, the governing body for skiing and snowboarding — although not the governing body many snowboarders wanted — established a tolerance level for marijuana of 15 nanograms. So when Rebagliati was 2.8 nanograms over the limit the IOC cited the FIS rule that said sanctions may be taken and decided to strip him of his medal, based on a minority decision by the IOC executive board. But the FIS rarely does drug testing at alpine World Cup ski races, and when they do they don’t test for marijuana. Bill McNeney, chief of race for World Cup ski events at Whistler for the last decade, has spent years dealing with the FIS. He’s never seen a drug test — which each race organizing committee must pay for — at a World Cup event in Whistler. "The whole thing just stinks, in terms of process," McNeney said of the Rebagliati incident. "It sounds like internally they can’t decide if they belong in the non-performance-enhancing drug testing business. I think they’re looking for some other tribunal to decide while they take the high ground." But there’s where a new level of hypocrisy creeps into the IOC decision. If the IOC is trying to set an example — trying to deal with a societal issue at a sporting event — then they should be saying recreational drugs won’t be tolerated. Period. But that’s not what they’re saying. They’re using the FIS rules which say some is okay, but not more than 15 nanograms. That the IOC was trying to make an example of Rebagliati became clear when it handed down the stiffest possible sanction despite only a 13-12 vote by the IOC medical committee and a 3-2 vote by the IOC executive board to strip him of his medal. "Whenever I’ve been involved and there’s been a question of rules, there’s never a mixed message sent out," McNeney says. "They’re taking really severe action based on a bunch of hunches." It also goes against the general FIS practise of giving the benefit of any doubt to the athlete. And athletics was supposed to be the IOC’s business. As McNeney concluded: "Rebagliati’s run, coming from eighth place after the first run through that fog and on that ice, that’s what sport is all about. "This other stuff, that’s what politics is all about."

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