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Drugs shame of snowboard champion

Blog by | February 11th, 2008

Article Mentioning Ross:

Exclusive Olympic Hopeful In Ecstasy Bust

A TOP snowboarder's Olympic dream is in tatters after he was caught with Ecstasy.

Rising star Neil Stead had a bag of 13 tablets when he was searched by undercover detectives.

The 17-year-old - Scotland's best junior snowboarder - was aiming for the Great Britain ski team for the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.

But his conviction for having Class A drugs has shattered the promising youngster's Olympic hopes.

When he was arrested, Stead asked: "Does this mean I can't go to the Olympics?"

Solicitor Paul Ralph said: "He is not at court because he is at a training camp in Canada.

"He is at quite a high level in the sport and that includes appearing at representative status. Whether that will remain the case after this conviction is impossible to say."

Officers had spotted the teenager with friends at T in the Park and watched as he appeared to roll a cannabis joint. They searched him and discovered he had a bag containing 13 Ecstasy tablets worth £39.

Ralph told Perth Sheriff Court last week that Stead, of Strathaven, Lanarkshire, planned to start university this year.

He added: "He is a young man who has gone to T in the Park to have a good time and has just made a real mess of things from there."

Stead, who had earlier appeared in court on crutches after tearing a ligament in a half-pipe snowboard event, was fined £150 after pleading guilty.

His world ranking shot up from 736 a year ago to 64 in November 2007 and he was a serious Olympic prospect.

Stead - known as Chunky - started boarding when he was 10 and has ridden all over Europe and North America. Last October, he was in the top 10 of a European junior event in France.

On his web profile, he said he enjoyed snowboarding because: "I can do whatever I want. What's the worst that could happen?"

Snowboarding was at the centre of a drugs scandal at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

Champion Ross Rebagliati tested positive for cannabis - but blamed it on passive smoking while with pals who used the drug.

The Canadian had his gold medal taken away but it was later restored after the International Olympic Committee decided the rules on recreational drugs were unclear.

That prompted a tightening of the IOC's stance against non-performance-enhancing drugs.

In the wake of the scandal, IOC vice president Dick Pound said: "The IOC has decided in the case of social drugs we should take a stand and Olympic athletes should be put at a somewhat higher standard than society in general."

IOC medical commission chairman Prince Alexandre de Merode said: "I believe the IOC likes to be associated with the fight against drugs - including social drugs."