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    Thursday, February 12, 1998

    Police to question Rebagliati about drug use

     NAGANO, Japan (AP) -- Ross Rebagliati, who was stripped of his Olympic snowboard gold medal after tests turned up traces of marijuana, has been summoned by Japanese police for questioning.
     Deportation or other penalties are unlikely as long as an investigation shows that Rebagliati did not use the drug in Japan, a Nagano police spokesman said Thursday (Wednesday night EST).
     Rebagliati tested positive for marijuana after his winning run in the men's giant slalom Monday.
     He is expected to be questioned at a police station near the Shiga Kogen ski area, the snowboarding venue, sometime Thursday, police said. He was told Wednesday to show up for questioning.
     Rebagliati, who is appealing his disqualification, told Canadian officials he hadn't used marijuana since April 1997, but was in close contact with marijuana smokers Jan. 31 in Whistler, British Columbia, before he left for Nagano.
     Drug use is far less prevalent in Japan, compared to the United States, and the nation has relatively strict drug laws.
     No foreigner who has been penalized for a drug offense is allowed to enter the country. Austrian ski jumper Andreas Goldberger, who has admitted cocaine use, was allowed to take part in the Olympics, only with special government permission.
     The International Olympic Committee said it would cooperate with the investigation.
     "I can see no reason why the IOC would not cooperate with local authorities," IOC spokeswoman Michele Verdier told reporters.
     Many Canadians were outraged that Rebagliati faced the same penalty as Ben Johnson, who was stripped of his gold medal 10 years ago for steroid use. Marijuana, unlike steroids, is not considered a performance-enhancing drug.