Source:   Los Angeles Times
Contact:   213-237-4712
Pubdate: Feb 13, 1998
Author:  Mike Downey, Times Sports Writer


Snowboarding: Panel rules that Canadian was unfairly stripped for marijuana.

NAGANO, Japan "It wasn't going to be easy getting it back from me, that's
for sure," joked Ross Rebagliati, the Canadian snowboarding champion, who
won't be giving back his Olympic gold medal after all.  A three-member
Court of Arbitration for Sport ad hoc panel has ruled that Rebagliati, 26,
was unfairly stripped of his medal after testing
positive for marijuana.

There were no legal grounds for such a punishment, said Carol Anne
Letheren, chief executive officer of the Canadian Olympic Assn., who added,
"The athlete should undergo no embarrassment, his performance should be in
no way tarnished and in no sense should it be considered overturned on a

Marijuana is not banned by the International Olympic Committee as a
performance-enhancing drug. Rebagliati claims that "second-hand smoke"
accounted for the traces found in his blood test, and that he had not
smoked  marijuana himself in more than 10 months. "Up until last April,
yes, I had used marijuana occasionally," Rebagliati admitted here Friday.
"It wasn't something that ruled my life. It was part of my life that is now
over. It was a social activity."

Rebagliati's gold medal was the first awarded in his sport's history. With
marijuana not expressly prohibited, a medical board could have recommended
to the IOC that Rebagliati either be reprimanded or disqualified. They
chose the latter, by a vote of 13-12. An IOC panel concurred, three to two,
with two abstentions. "The IOC was acting on the information that was in
front of them," Letheren said. "When confronted with new information, they
did not try to fight it. They listened, understood the situation and acted
fairly. I don't think there's any need for an apology, from either side."

Rebagliati was sorry it happened, nevertheless. "I won the medal. That was
the best moment of my life," he said. "I tested positive. That was the
worst moment of my life. "I'd like to thank all the people who stood by me.
Everybody's been super-supportive."

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