Tuesday, February 10, 1998
Whistler stunned, angry about short-lived goldWHISTLER, B.C. (CP) -- Staunch supporters of Ross Rebagliati are still planning a big welcome home party next week after a dope debacle that stripped him of his gold.
Graham Turner, a close friend who sponsors the Olympic team, says Rebagliati's been telling his buddies they should stop smoking marijuana since he quit doing it himself.
"It's ridiculous .... Is an athlete not supposed to be with his friends? (Marijuana) is a social thing. You come across it anytime in a ski resort."
Rebagliati told Canadian officials that he hasn't used dope since last April, but was in close contact with marijuana smokers Jan. 31 in Whistler before he left for Nagano.
Turner's been organizing a huge party scheduled for next Tuesday in the trendy, expensive village nestled at the base of the majestic Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.
"My plan is to go ahead with everything, regardless. I don't know if the mayor wants to. But Ross has still got the gold to everyone in Whistler. He just might not be on the cover of the Wheatie's box."
Paul Blunden, a resident who knows the Olympian, says his situation is far different from Ben Johnson's.
"I think all of Canada is disappointed," he said. "He has tested passively for something that's not a performance-enhancing drug. He's done nothing wrong."
Johnson was stripped of his Olympic gold medal and world record in 1988 in Seoul for using the anabolic steroid stanozolol.
Blunden is hoping the appeal by Canadian Olympic officials goes smoothly.
"He's still the best (giant slalom) snowboarder in the world."
A pub employee wanted more details.
"Does it mean that if he rode the gondola up with people (smoking dope), he'd pick it up?
His grandmother Sylvia, in Vancouver, was calm.
"I'm not a worrier. I know Ross too well. I think they're making a mountain out a molehill."
The vote to disqualify Rebagliati and strip him of his medal was a 3-2 decision by the IOC executive board. There were two abstentions.
IOC director general Francois Carrard, who announced the ruling, admitted opinions were "quite split""about whether to apply a sanction.
One Whistler woman wants to know a lot more before deciding whether that sanction was too severe.
"Apparently the amount (of marijuana) was really small and it stays in your body for a really long time," she said from her job at an ice cream parlor.
"You're not going to (smoke it) anytime near the race because it doesn't help you at all."
Chris Pope, who works at the Crab Shack in Whistler village, an enclave of expensive shops and trendy watering holes, was philosophic.
"One toke over the line," said Pope. "It's really too bad for him. But I guess if (officials) let one thing slide, everything would start to go."