It’s been 15 years since Ross Rebagliati won snowboarding’s first Olympic gold medal at the 1998 Winter Games — and then nearly lost that medal after he tested positive for marijuana.
Since then, the drug has become an integral part of Rebagliati’s life. Next month Rebagliati will open a medicinal marijuana dispensary in Whistler, British Columbia, called “Ross’ Gold.” The Canadian has also become a public face for pot-smoking athletes around the globe.
“Anytime somebody gets in trouble for weed I’m the guy the media calls,” Rebagliati, who lives outside Whistler, told USA TODAY Sports. “I went on NBC to defend (Michael) Phelps for smoking responsibly. I told them, Hey, it’s zero calories, zero fat!'”
Now 42, Rebagliati believes that changing attitudes toward marijuana — it’s now legal for medicinal purposes in Canada and 14 U.S. states — justifies the drug’s removal from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances.
Like cocaine and heroin, cannabis is banned during competition by WADA, which oversees drug testing worldwide in Olympic sports.