Pot-smoking Japanese snowboarders set for Olympic reprieve

The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics begin on February 9

Two Japanese snowboarders banned last year after being found guilty of puffing marijuana could be cleared to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics, ski officials said Friday.

One of the athletes admitted taking the drug at a party while on tour in Colorado, where cannabis was legalised for recreational purposes in 2012, provided the user is 21 years old.

Their names were not released as they were minors at the time and will not be made public until they register formally with the Ski Association of Japan (SAJ), an official told AFP.

That is expected to be rubber-stamped after an SAJ executive meeting next month, clearing them to compete in World Cup events, according to local media.

If they subsequently meet the qualifying standard, they would then be eligible for selection for the Pyeongchang Olympics, which begin on February 9, the JSA said.

The pair were suspended indefinitely after traces of marijuana were detected in their hair following a party in December 2015, prompting the resignation of former snowboarding head Fumikazu Hagiwara.

Japan's snowboarders have caused embarrassment in the past, notably when they were warned they could be kicked out of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics for flouting team dress code.

Olympic officials read Kazuhiro Kokubo the riot act when he arrived in Canada in dreadlocks with his uniform in "hip-hop" style -- trousers pulled low over his hips and shirt hanging out -- sparking outrage from lawmakers back home.

However, few have raised eyebrows quite as much as former Olympic snowboarder Melo Imai, who arguably gave the hipster sport more exposure than it really wanted after becoming a porn actress following her retirement.