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    Thursday, February 19, 1998

    Rebagliati stands by earlier statement

     TORONTO (CP) -- Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati says he is looking to put his Olympic controversy behind him, to regain the 20 pounds he has lost since testing positive for marijuana in Nagano and -- most of all -- get back on his board.
     The 26-year-old from Whistler, B.C., also reiterated he has not smoked marijuana since April 1997, adding he was hurt and confused by accusations by a top International Olympic Committee official that he was lying over his marijuana use.
     "There's nothing I want to do more than start getting back to my training, get some sleep and get back to a competitive level of competition," Rebagliati said in a telephone interview in Toronto.
     The snowboarder is in town for several media appearances, including Canada-AM this morning.
     The next stop on the snowboard tour is later this month in Germany, but Rebagliati says he isn't ready for it.
     "I've lost 20 pounds since the eighth (of February) due to lack of sleep and stress and not being able to eat and so on," he said. "Going into the race I was at the heaviest that I've been in for about four years and now I'm the lightest I've been in over five.
     "This is not a condition where I would like to start in an event."
     The five-foot-10 snowboarder currently weighs 167 pounds, down from his normal weight of 180. He weighed 190 for his race in Nagano, a weight gain that helped increase momentum during tough parts of the course.
     He hopes to compete in subsequent races in France and Sweden.
     Asked if he had thought of just getting away from it all, heading to a desert island or some other secluded destination, Rabagliati replied: "Oh, man. Oh, absolutely. I'd love to. But I've got some things to take care of as far as my competition goes."
     Rebagliati has signed with International Management Group, the powerful agency that counts Wayne Gretzky among its clients. He also has a public relations group at his disposal.
     The offers are rolling in. While he has yet to hear from Nike, he has heard from the competition.
     It should mean years of borrowing from his father are over.
     "Just for a short time, about two years, I was making enough money to cover myself but that didn't last," Rebagliati said.
     "Out of 10 years competition, he's needed to help me eight years out of that 10. The last two have been totally unsponsored for me."
     Rebagliati admits people told him he was nuts not to sign a sponsorship deal prior to the Games.
     "I said no, I think I'm just going to use my old equipment and do as good as I can and if things go well for me, I'm going to have more doors open to me after the Olympics.
     "And boy, did it ever work out for me."
     Rebagliati also shows his business savvy, noting matter-of-factly he has a window of opportunity with the meida this week before Gretzky wins the Olympic gold "and all the attention goes to him."
     To win the gold medal, Rebagliati used an old board he had won on in Whistler in '96.
     "It wasn't my sponsor. It was just one of the boards I was using for my old sponsor -- a damn good board."
     Rebagliati says he doesn't have a girlfriend right now. He's just too busy.
     "I'm close with all my ex-girfriends though. We're still friends."
     Still, he's getting to meet supermodels like Veronica Webb on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
     "Veronica. Boy, she was something else," he said.
     After his media appearances, he is slated to head home -- and get back in shape.
     "I haven't been on my board since the eighth and I haven't really had a good night's sleep two nights in a row since the seventh. My plan is to get home, get healthy, get sleep, gain weight, get on my board and get competitive."
     Rebagliati found himself back in the news Wednesday night when Prince Alexandre de Merode, chairman of the IOC medical commission, said the gold medallist tested positive in December for "unusually high" levels of marijuana in his urine.
     "I've concluded he (Rebagliati) didn't stop smoking (marijuana), like he has said, in April 1997," de Merode said.
     "I have not smoked since April of '97 and that's the truth," Rebagliati responded. "There's nothing else I can say about that.
     "Whether or not the test that come out in December was higher or lower..., I had been a home for a much longer period of time than when I did the test in Japan. Maybe the buildup was that much more than the test in Japan."
     Rebagliati said he was tested in September in Vancouver and in December in Whistler.
     Canada's top doping watchdog, meanwhile, questioned the propriety of both de Merode's comments and the tests cited by him.
     Victor Lachance, head of the Ottawa-based Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports, said he did not know how the IOC could have access to tests showing specific levels of marijuana in athlete samples.
     Lachance said the latest announcement only further served to confuse an already confused issue. And given the appeal tribunal's ruling that the IOC had no legal basis to test for marijuana, Lachance said "It is inappropriate for the IOC to be commenting on any findings from the Nagano tests, or any other source of information conerning the presence or absence of marijuana in Mr. Rebagliati's samples past or present."
     Lachance went on to say: "The use of a hitherto unknown screening progam to obtain further information concerning Mr. Rebagliati would in our view be a breach of privacy and could constitute an unethical use of both the IOC screening program or any information obtained from that program."
     At the COA news conference last week over the drug suspension, the head of the Canadian Snowboarding Federation said Rebagliati had tested positive twice for marijuana in November and December but that the tests showed levels under the allowable limit.
     Lachance said he had no idea where those results came from since Canada does not test for marijuana.
     "There seems to be a lack of accurate information," Rebagliati said. "I think that the testing situation really needs to be looked at more closely."
     De Merode said the IOC had been tracking marijuana use at the Olympics for the last 10 years.