Athletics chiefs have ruled out lifetime bans for first-time steroid abusers at a meeting in Helsinki ahead of the World Championships.
International Association of Athletics Federations bosses believe that life bans would lead to court challenges and will instead lobby for four-year bans.
But the IAAF did decide to toughen rules for nationality switches.
USA Track & Field had been pushing for life bans as part of a "zero-tolerance" stance on steroids.
Its proposal was limited to anabolic steroids and did not include such substances as human growth hormone or endurance-boosting drug EPO.
But it withdrew the motion after the IAAF said it would try to work with the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) to double the current mandatory two-year ban.
IAAF senior vice-president Dr Arne Ljungqvist said there was a wish from many sports to review the length of bans.
"Whatever wish we may have, and I'm certainly one of those who would like to see stronger penalties, this is not the right moment to do so," he said.
"We are in a situation where we can extend the ban but I believe we have to do it on an international scale and in agreement with Wada."
The IAAF switched from four-year bans to two-year suspensions in 1997 to avoid costly litigation. Life bans are currently reserved for a second serious offence.
The sport's governing body also withdrew a proposal to disqualify anyone committing a false start following opposition from several world federations.
Currently, one false start is allowed for the entire field and anyone jumping the gun after that is automatically disqualified.
The new measures were aimed at preventing athletes from deliberately jumping the gun to unsettle opponents, but the IAAF ruled it would be too harsh.
The meeting also rejected pleas from African countries to double the period of ineligibility for athletes changing nationality to six years.
However, the IAAF has brought the sport into line with International Olympic Committee rules by making it harder to obtain citizenship of convenience.
Athletes must now wait three years after they are granted citizenship before taking part in a major competition - or one year if both countries agree.
Previously, athletes could compete as soon as they had gone three years without representing their old country.