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    Tuesday, February 10, 1998

    Devastated teammates standing behind Rebagliati

     NAGANO, Japan (CP) -- Ross Rebagliati's teammates are devastated that snowboarding's first Olympic gold medallist has tested positive for marijuana use, but snowboard team leader Michael Wood says the ruling's impact won't have a negative effect on Canada's squad.
     "I think it's definitely going to have an impact," Wood, the executive director of the Canadian Snowboarding Federation, said following the Canadian Olympic Association's news conference today.
     "I don't think it's going to be one which will hinder their performance. I think it will give them the energy and spirit to go achieve their goals."
     Four Canadians will compete in tonight's half-pipe snowboard competition, including Trevor Andrew of Falmouth, N.S., Derek Heidt of Whistler, B.C.., Mike Michalchuk of Calgary and Darren Chalmers of North Vancouver.
     Rebagliati, 26, of Whistler, was stripped of his men's giant slalom gold medal by the IOC on Tuesday after failing both parts of drug tests medallists undergo in Olympic competition. The Canadian Olympic Association is appealing the decision.
     Wood says results of Rebagliati's drug test aren't worrying other Canadian snowboarders about undergoing testing.
     "I don't think they're worried," Wood said. "Not at all."
     Rebagliati didn't attend today's news conference, but Wood read a brief statement from the snowboarder, who says he's willingly complying with Olympic officials.
     The positive test strikes a harsh blow to snowboarding, a radically new sport making its Olympic debut. But Wood doesn't feel the effects will be detrimental.
     "I would say no," Wood said. "I would think it will give us the strength and will help us develop our programs to help athletes if they do require any type of counselling.
     "I don't think our sport is being singled out. I just think we're a lot more under the microscope than other sports because we are new. But I wouldn't say it's unfair."
     Canadian women's hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser thinks snowboarding might have taken a step back.
     "I think they (snowboarders) already have a bad image as it is. It's too bad," she said.
     Chef de mission Bob Wakelin said Canadian officials are disappointed with the positive test, but solidly behind Rebagliati.
     "He's devastated but he's getting his head around it and is being very helpful," Wakelin said.
     "I have a good feeling about the appeal but I've been through enough appeal processes in 35 years that I never gamble on a decision. We're going to be prepared, we're going to give it his best shot."
     For Carol Anne Letheren, it marked the second time second time in 10 years that she has had to address the media about a Canadian athlete being stripped of a gold medal after a positive drug test.
     In 1988 in Seoul, Korea, Letheren -- then Canada's chef de mission -- announced that Toronto sprinter Ben Johnson had tested positive for steroids.
     "I guess it's deja-vu and a nightmare again but this is such a different case in such a different situation that there's no real comparison in that sense," said Letheren, now the COA's chief executive officer. "It's never pleasant for the Olympic Association, the sport, the athlete, the public, anyone, it's not pleasant to go through this at any time.
     "There's always great sadness and great embarrassment. Certainly Ross and Mike expressed that to us. This is a tough one."