U.S. track star Torri Edwards's hopes of competing in the 2004 Olympics were diminished this week after the world governing body of track and field (IAAF) essentially ruled she should be subject to a full two-year ban for a positive test for a stimulant.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced yesterday that it had referred the IAAF's decision to the American Arbitration Association panel, which initially reviewed the case and will ultimately decide Edwards's fate.

In a ruling last week, the arbitration panel stated that special circumstances might exist to mitigate the mandatory penalty. However, the IAAF Anti-Doping Review Board, which includes IAAF President Lamine Diack, determined Tuesday that exceptional circumstances did not exist surrounding Edwards's positive test for a stimulant.

IAAF General Secretary Istvan Gyulai said yesterday IAAF rules require that the United States act on the IAAF's recommendations -- which would prevent Edwards from competing in the Games -- and that such action was merely a "formality."

However, because of recent changes to international doping rules, it is unclear whether the arbitration panel will strictly follow that mandate. Such a case has not arisen before.

Edwards, who qualified in the 100 and 200 meters, tested positive in April for nikethamide but argued to the arbitration panel that she consumed the substance inadvertently in what she believed were glucose tablets given to her by her physiotherapist.

The IAAF has rarely accepted such explanations for positive tests.

Should Edwards, the world champion in the 100, be banned, she would lose her position in the 100 to Gail Devers -- who might decline it, opening the door for fifth-place finisher Marion Jones -- and in the 200 to LaShaunte'a Moore.

Edwards could, however, appeal to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport. Should the arbitration panel rule in her favor, the IAAF also could appeal.

The IAAF essentially ruled that Torri Edwards, world champion in the 100 meters, should serve a two-year ban after testing positive for a stimulant.