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Vancouver Sun article on Ross

The Olympics & You

Ian Walker, Vancouver Sun

Published: Monday, February 11, 2008


Who: Ross Rebagliati

Gold medal, snowboarding

Snowboarder Ross Rebagliati with his Olympic gold medal.

Snowboarder Ross Rebagliati with his Olympic gold medal.

Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun

1998 Nagano Games

Whistler's Ross Rebagliati became the first man to win a snowboarding gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Keeping his prize turned out to be just as tough as winning it as Rebagliati tested positive for marijuana in a post-race drug analysis. Despite the overwhelming attention his ordeal received, little was said about Rebagliati's actual imprisonment in a police cell smaller than the span of his arms.

"They pressed charges that I was importing a banned substance into their country, even though it was just in my blood, right. So they had opened a case and the case was that if I didn't get my medal back then I'd go to jail. So we walk into the police station and all the cops look liked John Wayne, with their hair slicked back and cigarette's rolled up in their sleeves and this layer of cigarette smoke. They're all plugging away with one finger on the typewriter like I was in a Hawaii 5-0 show.

"And they stuck me in a room not even as wide as that [park] bench and interrogated me [for] hours. The interpreter barely spoke English, so I had no confidence he was able to translate what I was saying.

"One of the funniest things was they asked me all about weed. They asked me to show them how I smoked weed. So I was like, all right and asked them for a cigarette. I took one of their smokes and broke it open, emptied out all the tobacco, filled it back up again and rolled it up. And then the next question was, 'Everyone who smokes marijuana smokes tobacco?' They had just no idea. They didn't even know what marijuana was. For them it's like heroin or crack, it's a drug. It was getting a little bit out of hand.

"Finally, after six hours I said I'm not answering any more questions. I want a representative with me, right now. So they let me in the room with all the Canadian officials -- who weren't supposed to be separated from me in the first place. I had an RCMP officer with me and they were trying to get me diplomatic immunity and all this stuff.

"During that I learned that I could keep my medal. So the police chief said if the IOC was returning my medal they couldn't keep me any more, it would be too big of a controversy. What a lot of people don't realize is I was standing on the front steps of the police station ... it's then when I was holding up my medal after just getting out of jail."