Most of us remember when Michael Phelps, history’s most decorated Olympian, was exposed as a cannabis user in 2009 via the wide release of a candid photograph of the athlete captured at a party. Phelps was banned by USA Swimming for a total of three months and lost a major sponsor, Kellogg.
But most millennials likely don’t remember an even bigger marijuana-laced Olympic scandal.
It’s going on 20 years since Ross Rebagliati won the first ever gold medal for the sport of snowboarding and it’s going on 20 years since he lost that medal when he tested positive for THC after the win. But Rebagliati didn’t win gold by giving up. And he wasn’t going to go down without a fight.
Rebagliati maintained that he hadn’t used cannabis recently enough to affect his Olympic performance. In 1998, prior to heading to Nagano, Japan – where the games were being held that year – Rebagliati attended a gathering. At this gathering, he maintains to this day, many of the people in close proximity were using cannabis, but he wasn’t. He feels that must have been what the test registered. In fact, when the test results were revealed, Rebagliati’s reading of 17.8 nanograms per milliliter was just over the then regulated allowance of 15 ng/ml.
The World Anti-Doping Agency, the body in charge of global drug testing for Olympic sports, has only changed the threshold for THC within the last 5 years, to a whopping 150 ng/ml. That’s ten times higher than their previously set limit. A spokesperson for WADA, Ben Nichols, says that now they are only testing for current use.
“Our information suggests that many cases do not involve game or event-day consumption,” said Nichols. “The new threshold level is an attempt to ensure that in-competition use is detected and not use during the days and weeks before competition.”
After a successful appeal, Ross Rebagliati regained his gold medal and a seed had been planted. He believed in cannabis and it’s medicinal values.
Today, Rebagliati has channeled that belief beyond his personal lifestyle and into a brand, cleverly named “Ross’ Gold”. The brand currently sells pipes, water pipes, concentrate rigs and vaporizers. According to their website, they hope to be providing quality medicine to consumers soon,
“Ross’ Gold expects to begin selling a variety of strains of medical cannabis once our master licensee partner obtains a license from Health Canada.”
Read more Ross Rebagliati’s story on the Ross’ Gold website and look below to watch a brilliant video, Carving on Cannabis with a Snowboard Gold Medalist by VICE food channel, Munchies.