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    Wednesday, February 11, 1998

    Drug-test shocker

    By JOE WARMINGTON -- Sun Media
      CALGARY - As the Ross Rebagliati drug-test controversy swirls, the Sun has learned that at several of the going-away parties for Rebagliati last week some of his Whistler buddies were smoking marijuana.
     But his best friend told the Sun last night that it is just not possible that Rebagliati was taking part in it.
     "There is no way. I can't believe it," were the words from the mouth of Ross Rebagliati's best friend Graham Turner.
     "He was visiting all of his friends and he was sitting there smiling as an Olympic athlete -- like he's going to do something like that!"
     Turner was insisting something must be wrong.
     "He is an anti-drug guy. He's a clean snowboarder," said Turner.
     "I've seen him give people s... for it. He must have absorbed it at a party. It is a ski resort -- some of his friends do burn them. He's crying right now, I bet."
     In the 10 years he's known him, Turner said, he never once saw him take part in drug use.
     Devastation and denial were the first reactions last night from people who live in Whistler.
     "It's like getting kicked in the gut," was Hugh O'Reilly's reaction seconds after the Whistler mayor heard the news that has rocked the Canadian Olympic team.
     He was clearly shaken as he was watching the news conference outlining the details of how the gold medalist had failed a drug test and had his medal stripped.
     The two-day celebration suddenly and abruptly came to a stop last night as word started to move through the village.
     As incredible as it may seem, the municipality was yesterday in the middle of planning its big homecoming for its hometown hero. Set to arrive Tuesday it was going to be a giant party for all to enjoy Canada's first gold medal at the 1998 Olympics and the first ever in a sport that the locals are proud to have been pioneers in.
     Now, it's unclear if it will ever happen. For now the planning is on hold.
     "I guess we will have to wait," said O'Brien, who with his children loves to snowboard himself. "We will have to find out what happens."
     Comparing this incident to what happened to Ben Johnson in 1988, O'Reilly said, he "can hardly believe it." He was in a state of shock.
     "It is hard to find words."
     What a range of emotions Whistler has gone through in just some 48 hours. The euphoria went from the top of the mountain to the bottom is a hurry.
     "The town has just been ecstatic," said the 42-year-old mayor who lives just down the street from Rebagliati.
     Today the resort town is devastated.
     "We are sitting here on pins and needles."
     But some of his friends were still holding out hope for some sort of miracle that an appeal will change all of this.
     "I am pretty sure he is innocent," said a friend.
     "As of now we are all kind of waiting and hoping it's not true."