Marijuana And Snowboarding – Shouldn’t We Embrace Both?

snobordingWhen Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati had his slalom gold medal–one of the first medals of the Games–stripped last week after he tested positive for marijuana, it seemed like a self-fulfilling prophecy. When he was then caught with an ashcatcher equipped TAG water pipe like this, it was pretty much over.

The snowboarders had come to Japan with a rebel image, unsure they wanted to be part of any club that would invite them to be members in the first place.

“They were the ones who wanted snowboarding in the Olympics, and they know snowboarding is a little more liberal,” Swiss snowboarder Anita Schwaller says. “They wanted us. It’s not the riders who want to be here.”

But once all the “O Cannabis” jokes and “The Olympic motto: faster, stronger, and way, way higher,” punch lines were used up, the Rebagliati controversy spawned legitimate debate on bigger issues, such as:

* Should the International Olympic Committee be testing its athletes for recreational drugs’ such as marijuana7 Or should the IOC stick to worrying about sports, like who’s cheating with performance-enhancing drugs.

* Do Olympic athletes have a moral responsibility, beyond their duty to perform for their country? Is being a role model part of the Olympic contract?

One day after the IOC narrowly voted to strip Rebagliati of his medal, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled he could keep it. And the decision illuminated the confusion among the Lords of the Rings on the issue of marijuana.

Some sports’ governing bodies list marijuana as a banned substance. Some do not Few experts consider marijuana performance-enhancing and therefore few officials are of the opinion that it would be cheating to use marijuana. So basically, testing for it is just snooping.

The Canadian Olympic Association, which had the embarrassment of the Ben Johnson scandal almost 10 years ago in Seoul, quickly came to Rebagliati’s defense, supporting his assertion he tested positive because he had been around pot smokers at parties.

Rebagliati said: “This has nothing to do with trying to gain any advantage on anybody.”

Rebagliati’s Olympics have been a roller-coaster ride. He spent a day being questioned by the Japanese police. The pot accusations were taken seriously in a country where the penalty for possession can be five years imprisonment.

“When I won the medal it was the best moment of my life,” Rebagliati says. “When I got the news about the test, it was the worst moment of my life.”

But he offered no apologies, and he didn’t muster any false shame. He freely admitted that until April of 1997 he used marijuana on occasion. “It didn’t rule my life,” he says. “It was a social activity.”

And he refused to publicly disown his friends in Whistler, British Columbia, which might experience a boom in tourism in the coming months because of the scandal.

“That’s where it’s present” says halfpipe rider Michael Michalchuck, one of Rebagliati’s teammates. “You don’t have the choice whether to ingest it in your system.”

Watch out Fort Lauderdale. Whistler could become the spring break destination of choice.

“I’m not going to change my friends,” Rebagliati says. “People have to make decisions in their lives. They have to choose the things that they do carefully and realize the consequences. … Fin not out to rule anybody’s life.”

Interesting that a 26-year-old snowboarding dude seems to have more perspective on that issue than the IOC.

Turns out the Gen-Xers have brought more than just a new look to the Games. They’ve brought a refreshing viewpoint


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