February 21, 2006
Ross Rebagliati: 1998 - Nagano, Japan
GEORGE GROSS -- Sun Media

The Nagano Olympic Games in 1998 remain in our memory not only because Team Canada's coaching staff boycotted Wayne Gretzky when it came to a shootout decision against the Czech Republic, but moreso on account of the Ross Rebagliati fiasco.

The Whistler,, B.C. snowboarder won and then, temporarily, lost the gold medal. But, unlike Ben Johnson in Seoul in 1988, young Rebagliati was strongly supported by the Canadian Olympic Association.

His problem began when his urinalysis at the dope testing lab showed traces of marijuana in Rebagliati's system. He admitted he had had the odd puff of the stuff but hadn't indulged for several months. He claimed that the presence of the trace amounts could be explained by second-hand smoke he had inhaled at a going-away party for him in Canada prior to leaving for Nagano.

The International Olympic Committee, in its wisdom, or the lack of it, stripped him of the gold medal and threatened to suspend him. The COA appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration. The court ruled that the original decision had been based on Federation Internationale de Ski policy and that the IOC had no written agreement with the FSI to implement its policy at drug testing. On the other hand, IOC policy listed maijuana as a "restricted" substance not a "banned" one. The COA won the case and Regliabati got to keep his gold medal.

After the decision, COA and Canadian fans held their collective breath wondering whether the IOC would return the gold medal Rebagliati had won in the giant slalom event of snowboarding to him.

Actually, there was nothing to worry about. Rebagliati already had it in his possession because during the investigation it was resting in the Canadian snowboarder's shirt pocket.

Talk about tense moments for a Canadian Olympian.