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    Wednesday, February 11, 1998

    Rebagliati's dreams go up in smoke?

      Gold medal-winning snowboarder Ross Rebagliati of Whistler, B.C., has tested positive for marijuana use, the International Olympic Committee confirmed yesterday.
     Pending an appeal, Rebagliati will lose the medal.
      IOC vice-president Richard Pound of Montreal said yesterday that Rebagliati had failed a drug test for marijuana, which is a banned substance under the IOC charter.
     The Canadian Olympic Association plans to launch an immediate appeal over the test, which will be heard by an independent court of arbitration within 24 hours.
     Rebagliati, 26, captured the first Olympic gold medal for snowboard on Sunday and said after the event that he had concerns about the drug test.
     A positive test for a drug such as marijuana is considered minor in terms of performance enhancement, but would carry a three-month suspension from competition.
     For a medallist, however, the positive test would result in the athlete being stripped of a medal.
     Marijuana, said Dr. Andrew Pipe, 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 still could 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 co-ordination and balance," Pipe said.
     "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 tests 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."