Snow­boarder has had his highs and lows

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - SPORTS - BY ROBIN SHORT

There was a time Ross Re­bagliati strug­gled to find the sunny side.

The low point came days af­ter the big­gest day of his life, when he emerged from be­ing just an­other wild and crazy snow­boarder to be­come Olympic champ.

Three days later, af­ter test­ing pos­i­tive for mar­i­juana in his sys­tem, Re­bagliati was stripped of his medal.

Re­mem­ber, this was 1998, ex­actly 10 years af­ter the Ben John­son fi­asco in Seoul, South Korea.

And now, here was this fresh-faced, in­no­cent-look­ing Cana­dian kid who could pass for your pa­per boy and he was … a stoner?

“I was dev­as­tated that this was hap­pen­ing to me,” re­calls Re­bagliati, now 47. “Dev­as­tated for Canada to have to deal with an­other Ben John­son story, and it was me who caused it.

“I didn’t sleep for days. It was a ma­jor strug­gle psy­cho­log­i­cally for me to put Canada in this po­si­tion again. It hurt me that I was putting the Cana­dian Olympic team through this be­cause our event was on the first day of the Olympics, and now the whole rest of the Olympics was my story and no one else’s story, and I felt shitty about that.”

Turns out weed was not on the list of banned sub­stances; the medal was re­turned, and he was re­in­stated as 1998 Olympic snow­board champ.

There was a guest ap­pear­ance on The Tonight Show where Re­bagliati stuck to his story: he didn’t smoke weed. Rather, he in­gested sec­ond-hand smoke (some of that, he says to­day, came at the wake of a friend prior to the Games. “There was quite a lot of con­sump­tion go­ing on.”).

“Look, I smoked. I’ve never de­nied that,” he said. “I was us­ing cannabis up un­til spring of 1997. We knew that THC would

stay in your body for quite some time, but we didn't know how long. I fig­ured if I worked out and trained all sum­mer and fall, I would be good to go by Fe­bru­ary. Par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Olympics was paramount.

“The night be­fore my fi­nal race, I slept pretty good. If I was wor­ried about some­thing I'd taken, or some­thing that was in my sys­tem, I wouldn't have slept a wink.”

Re­bagliati tried to take his new-found celebrity and run with it, but his 15 min­utes of fame was wan­ing. He fell on hard times, and it started with him be­ing banned from en­ter­ing the United States. There was a real es­tate deal that went south and a re­la­tion­ship breakup.

So, isn't it ironic that Re­bagliati has re­bounded, thanks in part to his as­so­ci­a­tion with cannabis — the rea­son, it could be ar­gued, he got into this mess in the first place?

“It took me a good 10 years to sort my life back to­gether,” he said. “It's been a hard go.

“But I'm not the kind of guy who runs away from ad­ver­sity. I en­joy a chal­lenge, and this was a ma­jor cul­tural shift. It re­ally put the onus on me as an in­di­vid­ual to say, ‘Look, I'm an Olympic gold medal­list and I use cannabis. It's good for me and it's good for you.'

“I be­lieve mil­lions of peo­ple will be able to use and en­hance their day-to-day life through healthy liv­ing and healthy life­style.

“If you have a group of univer­sity stu­dents binge drink­ing in one room, and a bunch of univer­sity stu­dents smok­ing a joint in the other, which group do you pre­dict is go­ing to do bet­ter the next morn­ing in class?”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.