Thursday, February 12, 1998
Snowboarder's home town celebrates medal returnWHISTLER, B.C. (CP) -- Ross Rebagliati's home town erupted in cheers today after hearing their favorite snowboarder won back his gold.
At Garfinkle's, a bar in the ski village at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, a roar went up when the manager announced the news.
"It's awesome," said Douglas Epp. "It's a medal for Canada. Having such trace amounts of marijuana -- that's no reason he shouldn't keep it."
Andrew Herrington said he believed Rebagliati all along.
"He doesn't smoke weed, man. He's a serious athlete.
"The rules have got to change and society's views on marijuana have to change. I think this brings it to the forefront."
The young giant slalom champion was stripped of his Olympic medal Tuesday by the International Olympic Committee after small amounts of the drug were found in his system.
Canada appealed and the decision was overturned because there had been no agreement between the IOC and the International Ski Federation that marijuana should be treated as a banned substance.
The decision of the appeals panel was unanimous -- and final.
Rebagliati said in a statement in Nagano that he hasn't smoked dope since last April but he was at a party with smokers as recently as Jan. 31 before he left for Japan and must have breathed it in.
A Whistler man who didn't want his name used said he was at a party last April when the medal winner smoked dope.
"It's not a performance-enhancing drug," he said. "It just makes you want to go to sleep."
Residents of the skiing paradise outside Vancouver were bitterly disappointed when the medal was stripped. The town is planning a huge celebration for next Tuesday after Rebagliati returns.
"We're ecstatic," said Mayor Hugh O'Reilly. "We were proud of Ross before. We're exceedingly proud now.
"I think right now our concern would be, how do we accommodate all the people? I think people will come from all over now."