Wednesday, February 11, 1998
Not another Ben Johnson
The news was confirmed by International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound of Montreal.
The Canadian Olympic Association plans to launch an immediate appeal over the test, which will be heard by an independent court of arbitration within the next 48 hours.
Rebagliati, 26, captured the first ever Olympic gold medal for snowboarding on Sunday and said after the event that he had concerns about the drug test.
If Canada loses its appeal, Rebagliati would lose his medal.
There were thoughts before these Games that Canada would have its best Winter Olympics ever.
It still might in terms of medals won, but the controversy over the amount of French in the presentation to Canadian athletes at Canada House on the eve of the Games.
Now this turn of events have taken the shine off what should have been one of Canada's brightest moments on the world stage.
There are some who might argue the snowboarders deserve a medal for being able to negotiate that spectacular course at break-neck speed under the influence of some wacky weed.
Let's get this straight. This is not another Ben Johnson.
Marijuana, said Dr. Andrew Pipe, the chairman of the Canadian Centre For Ethics in Sports and a former chief medical officer for Canada's Olympic team, is a drug that in fact destroys performance, rather than enhances it, but its use could still be considered serious because of health and safety issues.
"It's pretty well accepted that marijuana is an ergolygic drug which means it interferes with coordination and balance," said Pipe.
Could not a buzz put an athlete in a more relaxed state and help performance?
"Motor activity is impaired, it's destructive," said Pipe, adding the decrease in control and coordination would be much greater than any benefits of relaxation.
"That's one of the reasons there's a concern with people like airline pilots, train engineers and long-distance truck drivers using it.
"The FIS is one of the sports bodies that test for marijuana use. There are a couple of reasons for drug testing: one is to protect against cheating by using performance-enhancing drugs and another is to protect the integrity of the sport. Why the FIS tests for it is a question that should be more properly addressed to the FIS. But it is probably perceived to be a health and safety issue."
Pipe said the number of sports federations which test for marijuana is in the minority because "there has been a reluctance to get involved with social drug issues."
Not all members of the country's Olympic family were behind the snowboarder.
"I honestly didn't think they'd be so stupid to smoke drugs at the Olympics," Canadian cross-country skier Sara Renner said last night at the athletes' village. "I really didn't think they were that stupid. It's just so sad for Canadians, it's disappointing.
"I've worked so hard to get here, I've worked four years and my results are not anything to write home about, but I'm still proud of what I'm doing and the effort.
"He got a gold medal and just threw it away. I'd feel like a fool if I won a gold and had it taken away because I smoked marijuana."