Tatiana Kazankina of the Soviet Union, perhaps the greatest female middle-distance runner of all time, faces a possible lifetime suspension for refusing to submit to a drug test after her victory in the 5,000 meters last night during an international track meet in Paris.

However, John Holt, the general secretary of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, the world governing body for track and field, indicated there may be no penalties against Kazankina, saying there had been a misunderstanding. The IAAF Council is expected to rule on the matter at its next meeting, in November.

It was apparent from an interview with Holt, who is British, after the meet that he is concerned about the politics of the situation. IAAF officials invariably tread lightly in statements concerning the Soviet Union, particularly in an area as sensitive as drugs.

Kazankina, 32, is the only woman to earn gold medals in the 800 meters and the 1,500 in the same Olympics, having won both events at the 1976 Montreal Games. She is the only woman to repeat as the Olympic 1,500-meter champion, having won another gold at the 1980 Moscow Games.

Although the Soviets led a boycott of the Olympics, they agreed in negotiations with the IAAF to send athletes following the Games to three "permit" meets on the European circuit. One of the stipulations of permit meets is that athletes will be selected at random for drug testing.