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Vancouver Province: Ross Rebagliati wins settlement from CTV for TV series

Blog by | April 25th, 2008

Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Ross Rebagliati has won a financial settlement from CTV for "defaming" him by creating a blonde, blue-eyed snowboarding party animal as a key character in its Whistler TV series.

Rebagliati, who won a gold medal for Canada at the 1998 Nagano Olympics in the first-ever Olympic snowboarding competition, sued in 2006 when CTV introduced its Whistler TV show, promoted as an expose of the elite snow sports and high-living community in the resort town.

Rebagliati said his website, e-mail and Facebook sites were flooded by comments from people who found the character Beck McKaye to be "startlingly similar" to him, except for the fact McKaye has already died on TV.

"He lived in Whistler, he was the same height, had the same colour hair, the same haircut and wore the same red jacket with white sleeves that I wore on the podium in 1998 when I got my gold medal," Rebagliati said Thursday.

"They didn't directly connect the character to the controversy surrounding my medal, but through innuendo and general sterotyping implied that he was unsavory or had brushes with the law.

"It was a real cheap shot."

Rebagliati was briefly stripped of his gold medal after he tested positive for marijuana in his circulatory system.

His medal was reinstated because, at the time, marijuana was not banned as a performance-enhancing drug. (It now is). Rebagliati claimed the marijuana in his system came from exposure to second-hand pot smoke.

The controversy drew international attention to Rebagliati, who admits now he's "happy how it all turned out."

Rebagliati said he was incensed at CTV because he'd offered to help when he first heard of the Whistler show.

But he said he doesn't hold a grudge and would even like to work for the CTV network, which is the host TV network for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Rebagliati now spends his time doing charitable work, promoting Kelowna Mountain real estate and is working at his own Rebagliati Alpine Snowboard Training Academy (acronym RASTA). He'll be doing a national Shaw TV show on snowboarding "leading up to 2010."

He would not divulge the amount of the settlement.

CTV spokeswoman Bonnie Brownlee would say only that the lawsuit was settled out of court.

E-mail reporter Suzanne Fournier at sfournier@png.canwest.com