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Ross Rebagliati is staying golden


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          { Ross Rebagliati was the first man to ever win a gold medal in the giant slalom snowboard event at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. He was also the first to have it revoked after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reported trace amounts of THC were in his system, making his legendary triumph a foreshadowing for hope and change.

          Rebagliati’s intense training leading up to the unforgettable gold medal win was during the 90s, in which he explains, “skate and snowboarding culture was deeply intertwined with cannabis”. }

As an athlete, how were you introduced to cannabis?
> I found the athletes that I gravitated towards were the guys that were having the most fun. The guys that were smoking weed were taking it to another level. What would the snow temperature and air temperature be?  What wax do we need in the backcountry? In the summer, these same guys would bike up from Deep Cove near Vancouver to Whistler, burn one with us in our cabin, and then get on their mountain bikes and ride back to the North Shore. 

> Micro-dosing and smoking, and burning thousands of calories in nature, and then coming home, having a huge BBQ and passing out at like 9 at night, because you’re just exhausted. Repeat that the next day. It was an unreal lifestyle. We’re talking biking close to 200 km’s, and they’re smoking weed and micro-dosing acid. We were doing this stuff back in the early 90s, professional athletes, and now it’s becoming a thing.

As your professional snowboarding career advanced, did your cannabis use evolve with it? 
> I actually got more into it because I was learning more about cannabis and how it worked for me. Don’t forget, this is the 90s so there was no way to look it up on the internet. I just realized cannabis was getting me into the gym for the 10 000th day in a row. Cannabis was making those ultra endurance rides something to look forward to. Cannabis was giving me this motivation you can’t pay for.  

(Rebagliati during his gold medal winning run.)

> Over years of training and racing, there’s only so many different ways to get pumped up to do the same thing. I can never get bored of snowboarding, but we did it over 200 days a year. There were ups and downs, you had bills to pay, and you still had to go and train. Weed was one of those things where it’s like, fuck it, let’s get to the next resort. Let’s get training, let’s figure it out. Cannabis allows me not to get wrapped up in a bunch of bullshit that doesn’t matter. So it kind of helped me to focus.  

Were you able to share your cannabis experiences with your peers? 
> When I went on tour in the 90s, the international team had some veterans from California and Oregon. They were hardcore, big name snowboarders that were killing it. Very fast guys that were smoking weed going up the chairlift, training, running gates, and just having the best time ever. Eventually, I started having a puff here and there and that’s how I kind of figured out that you could train and smoke at the same time. It just hadn’t occurred to me to try it during my training sessions at camps and stuff before.

> Some guys from more professional backgrounds didn’t smoke, but being on tour with cannabis was not unusual. At the time, the European Union didn’t exist, so we’d go through every border. It wasn’t very fun to travel with weed.

> We would basically hook up in each country with our buddies from Switzerland, Italy or Austria to smoke weed. We would hook them up with BC bud when the World Cup was in Whistler and just get them annihilated

(Enjoying a joint lakeside, near his home in the Okanagan, BC.)

          { The shower of bad news regarding his only just won medal, motivated Rebagliati to act immediately by appealing the IOC’s decision to disqualify him, which was followed by a media frenzy.  He won the appeal and his gold medal was returned just a few days after it was so hastily revoked.

        To clarify, THC was not on the list of banned substances in 1998.  In fact, Rebagliati’s system reported only 2.8 nanograms per milliliter more than the amount of THC  tolerated at the time. The World Anti-Doping Agency’s Executive Committee took until 2013 to revise the new concentration threshold for THC from 15 ng/mL to 150ng/mL*.

         This was a long 15 year wait, after Rebagliati’s epic slide across the snow covered finish line, to see a change in regulations. }

What is your relationship now with the International Olympic Committee (IOC)?
> I was invited to go to the Salt Lake City games in 2002 – that was the next winter Olympic games after Nagano. I was automatically entered into those games because I was the gold medalist from the games before. But, I didn’t have the wherewithal to keep riding, training and the whole rigmarole with the media chasing me around about weed. 

> I went to Salt Lake City as a spectator. It was really cool and we had fun. The IOC gave me full credentials, basically the same as an athlete. I was able to get into all events and restricted areas, but when the 2010 games came I couldn’t even get tickets, so I haven’t stayed in touch.  

Share how your reputation changed after the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.   
> Well, it mostly had to do with prohibition and the stereotype and stigma that I carried with cannabis. I took it with a grain of salt, but I wasn’t oblivious that it was happening to me. The 90’s was interesting because Google didn’t exist yet, Facebook wasn’t going, Instagram wasn’t happening, nothin’.

> No one really had an email or a cell phone. VHS was big, video stores had lineups to get in and Blockbuster was paying big bucks to attend store openings. I was getting other opportunities where they paid me big bucks just to hang out for two hours with my medal. The internet kicked in and opportunities came my way. I thought this was something I could do to support my family

> I would get calls to make appearances. Soon after, they’d Google me and realize, “oh, this isn’t a good fit for us”. During that time in prohibition I didn’t fit the mold in many ways.  People weren’t privy to the medicine or the information because it was so early in the game. The internet eventually made it possible for people to educate themselves, and stop listening to straight propaganda.

          { The dark cloud of reefer madness hanging over Rebagliati by the IOC had finally rained on his Olympic parade. His decision to transition out of the Olympic space was quite organic. A longstanding cannabis passion directed this Canadian Olympian to advocate for cannabis users with NORML. Rebagliati donated time to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He ran for MP in his local riding.
          Since being the
first man to win gold in snowboarding at the Olympics, Rebagliati has walked through the stigmatic smoke cloud into many successes. One of his latest ventures, Ross’ Gold,  includes a line of high end line gold plated bongs. }

(Rebagliati in one of his natural habitats.)

How did you finally transition out of the Olympic space entirely? 
> I made the decision to stop being an Olympian, to be myself and to start Ross’ Gold  in 2013. I wanted to keep supporting cannabis, but to leverage my name within the industry. I just dove in right after Nagano because I’d been given an opportunity to carry the cannabis torch and so I took it. Unlike other companies – I’m a person, I’m not a name with a market cap and I’m not publicly traded. 

> Between corporate reality and prohibition, it’s been interesting walking through the legalization process here in Canada. When we started Ross’ Gold, none of the big companies existed yet. 2018 was the year they went public, it was crazy. We focused on brand traction by building the brand into something people could relate to, rather than build market cap and value for shareholders. That’s not a fun competition, it’s basically a bunch of investment losers

          { Through many ups and downs in his athletic and cannabis careers, Rebagliati maintains focus on what is important to him as a person, which fosters his ability to find success in unexpected ways.  He continues to be a great role model despite the gold medal madness.
          Although Rebagliati’s Olympic win was momentarily heralded as contestable, it now acts to forecast how the cannabis industry’s founders and future Olympians may stand victorious as well. }

What is not talked about enough in the cannabis space?
> There’s got to be more provisions for gathering where people can get together and use cannabis. The community needs to be able to come together where alcohol is not an option. I think neighborhood pubs are great, but that’s not what the true cannabis culture is looking for. I’m a non-drinker. I don’t really do it because I smoke.

> Having an open inclusive safe place where you can go and smoke weed or do edibles and have coffees and whatever non alcoholic drinks. It’s the kind of environment our industry and culture truly need. 

Ross’ Gold, is that still the plan?  

> We’re looking at the horticultural side now. What I’m really passionate about is creating everything you need to grow Ross’ Gold craft cannabis – breeding the genetics, designing the LED lights, making the soil. We are in talks with producers who we feel are high end and are the kind of people that we want to work with.

> People who want the Ross’ Gold program will have access to everything they need. I think that’s the way it should be done. You know, when you grow your own medicine, you are pretty passionate about it. I’ve done a bunch of stuff, normal, and not so normal. At the end of the day, I want to do cannabis

(Image by: Tdog the artist)

*The WADA is responsible for bringing consistency to anti-doping policies and regulations within sport organizations and governments across the world regarding the parameters of acceptable drug use.